By Charles Randall
Defibrillators were presented to four cricket clubs in a brief ceremony at Lord's this week to launch a programme set up by the Club Cricket Charity.
Matthew Fleming, the MCC president, handed over the gleaming yellow machines to representatives of Princes Risborough, Paragon, Hampton Woodlawn and Manipay Parish Sports Club, the Tamil League side who were hit by the on-field death of a young player in 2015 .
Fleming praised the scheme as a "valuable initiative" adding that clubs could only benefit from safety in the clubhouse. He told the club delegates: "I hope these machines give you comfort and that you never have to use them."
The Club Cricket Charity scheme, with an objective of supplying 200 defibrillators in 2017, sprang from a survey by the magazine All Out Cricket, which identified safety as a top priority. The charity has been working with the Community Heart Beat Trust, raising money for machines to support clubs and schools.
The four machines at Lord's were funded by the Wendy Grossmith Defibrillator Fund, named after the family who donated them, as announced at the annual Club Cricket Conference lunch.
Robbie Book, trustee of the Club Cricket Charity and chairman of the Club Cricket Conference, said defibrillators could be part of a life-saving process. "After cardiac arrest, each minute represents a 10 per cent chance of survival," he said. "Many cricket grounds are well out of range of a 10-minute window for the arrival of medical assistance. So, the fact that a defibrillator is on hand gives the chance of averting the worst-case scenario."
To join the scheme a club should contact the Club Cricket Charity, who will review the request. The successful clubs will be given information and guidance from the Community Heart Beat Trust before receiving a defibrillator - on loan for four years for legal reasons. The Trust enters an agreement with the local ambulance service and gives training to club members if required.
The loan arrangement means that the Trust accepts the main liabilities and offers free insurance, replacement machines, counselling and other benefits. Obligations from the clubs include regular battery checks and running costs of £126 per year. At the end of the four years a club has the option to purchase their machine for one pound.
There are no statistics covering on-field deaths, but every county probably suffers one or two a year. The case involving London-based, park-playing Manipay Parish was especially sad because the victim Pavalan Pathmanathan was aged only 24. He was hit on the chest while batting in a match at Long Ditton CC and subsequently died. A defibrillator would almost certainly have saved him.
Two team-mates, Jay Narayanan and Mithun Arumaithurai, attended the presentation at Lord's. Narayanan said that the players still felt a sense of grief and shock more than a year later. After the incident, they had to cancel five or six matches because so many players felt unable to carry on.
The other three clubs had not suffered loss, but were selected for diversity. David Brooker, as president, accepted a machine on behalf of the Thames Valley club Princes Risborough CC, and Dunstan Holder - a distant cousin of Vanburn - represented the African Caribbean Cricket Association club Paragon CC as fixture secretary. Sunday side Hampton Woodlawn, adding the town to their name in 2017, were represented by chairman Alistair Attwood and treasurer John Clissold.
In 2016 several clubs acquired a defibrillator. The list included Stansted Hall & Elsenham CC, who were given a machine by the Bishop's Stortford Community Hospital Charitable Trust as part of an ongoing campaign. Rothley Park CC and their local community in Leicestershire were shaken by the loss of Joe Humphries, 14, who died while jogging, and they raised funds for a defibrillator. Hornchurch CC received one unexpectedly, paid for by funds from the disbanding of the Havering Association of Cricket Officials. This was in recognition of the Essex club's "generous hospitality" towards umpires over many years.
The charity Welsh Hearts donated a defibrillator to Blackwood Town CC in South Wales in memory of Hywel Evans, who died on the pitch aged 43 in 2006. Westfield CC benefited from donations by two Hastings charities, and Lowerhouse CC, in Lancashire, held a fund-raising day in September to buy their own machine.
In the meantime, the Club Cricket Charity's quest to raise money for defibrillators continues. The Charity's stated aims are to seek funding for specific projects and initiatives which will enhance the facilities for, and further the ambitions of, park-playing leagues, clubs, teams and individuals – the Amateur Game.www.communityheartbeat.org.uk/cricket