October 6, 2022

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Having a ball with Viv’s dream teaMoS2 Template Masterm: Why Antigua is so much more than just a tropical paradise

By Harry Judd for The Mail On Sunday

The West Indies have produced some of the greatest cricket players ever
McFly’s Harry Judd flew to Antigua to play a charity match with the masters
Other team members included former England captain Mike Gatting
Most people go to the Caribbean to relax on a golden beach, but as a lifelong fan and player of cricket, it’s difficult for me to think of the Caribbean as simply a tropical paradise.
The West Indies have produced some of the greatest players ever – think Sobers, Richards, Marshall, Lara and Gayle – so you can imagine my glee when I was invited to Antigua to play matches with the Lord’s Taverners against some of these past masters.
As a musician with McFly and a winner of Strictly Come Dancing, I’ve e319D07B900000578-0-image-a-119_1456585807209njoyed some incredible highs, but none compared to this.
Set up in 1950 by a group of actors, the Taverners is the UK’s leading youth cricket and disability sports charity. Its objective is to give young people, particularly those with special needs, a ‘sporting chance’.
To celebrate the charity’s 65th anniversary last year, I joined a group of current and former professionals and celebrities on the tour of Antigua and neighbouring Barbuda.
Our team included BBC sports presenter Mark Chapman and former England captain Mike Gatting.
I jumped at the opportunity to take part. Not only was there the obvious attraction of playing cricket but also the more serious business of raising cash to help young people, and visiting projects in Antigua that the Taverners are already supporting.
One of the key things that the charity does is hand out equipment to the local cricket teams – most of the pads, bats, balls and gloves are donated by current and former England players.
In recent years, the popularity of cricket in the Caribbean has been dwindling as more and more youngsters play basketball and football instead.
But there is still a very special vibe about Caribbean cricket – people such as Sir Viv Richards, who comes from Antigua, are major icons.
We were delighted to attract a substantial crowd for our Twenty20 match at the Viv Richards Stadium.
Much to our delight, we defeated a team managed by the man himself.
I was bowled by Courtney Walsh, another legend of West Indies cricket, so there was certainly no shame in that.
319D0A3300000578-3467086-image-a-120_1456585963504This was my second visit to Antigua. My first was with my now-wife and her family about six years ago and we fell in love with the place.
We adored seeking out some quiet spots on the island and relaxing with a good book. When we’re on holiday we don’t want to be terribly active.
But when you’re with the Taverners, of course, it’s all about being active.
So when you hit the beach, there’s no time for reading – it has to be a game of beach cricket.
We agreed to play Sir Viv’s team again but they were late getting there – and let’s just say by the time they arrived, most of the Taverners were well refreshed thanks to potent rum cocktails.
As I was one of the only sober ones there, Mike Gatting appointed me captain.
The wicket was about 20 yards from the sea – the rule was that if you struck the ball into the water, it counted as a boundary.
I managed to score a quickfire 40 and everyone had a great laugh.
More than anything, the experience taught me that if you want to get under the skin of another country, then sport is the perfect way in.
You don’t have to be touring with a team – travel around and you will almost certainly encounter an excellent game on a village green or a beach.
But if you’re planning to pick up a bat, my advice is to stay well clear of the rum punch first…
TRAVEL FACTS
For information on Antigua and Barbuda see visitantiguabarbuda.com.
For information on Lord’s Taverners visit lordstaverners.org.
Hayes and Jarvis (hayesandjarvis.co.uk) offers seven nights’ B&B at Sugar Ridge (sugarridgeantigua.com) from £1,049pp, including return BA flights from Gatwick and transfers.

IMAGES:
Let’s play! Harry, far left, prepares for his beach game with Sir Viv Richards, centre, and Mike Gatting
Stunning: The view from Shirley Heights over Antigua’s Admiral Nelson’s Dockyards is not to be missed
Potent: The island’s famed rum punches sure lived up to their name, as Harry and his teammates found out
For more on this story go to: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-3467086/Having-ball-Viv-s-dream-team-Antigua-just-tropical-paradise.html#ixzz449zygKlD

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