When Rutland farmer Andrew Brown suffered a horrific eye injury playing cricket, he realised more batting practice was necessary to try to prevent a repeat incident.
The cricket-mad farmer was struck in the right eye by a bouncer while playing for his local village cricket team, Nevill Holt Cricket Club.
“I was playing one Wednesday evening and a bouncer came. I went to hook it and I thought I’d hit it because it made a big noise,” he recalled.
“The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor with a lot of blood coming out of my head.”
Mr Brown was taken to hospital with the gruesome injury that required multiple stitches and left him with his eye swollen shut and impaired vision for several days. The following day, he also suffered a bout of delayed concussion.
After his recovery, Mr Brown started to get some cricket coaching, including how to avoid bouncers.
And when the coaches told him they often could not find suitable venues because the sport takes up a lot of room in a sports centre for a relatively small number of people, he started to think about his own farm.
Mr Brown realised there was space to convert animal housing into an indoor cricket practice facility with three full-size nets.
He received permission from his local planning department at Rutland County Council for change of use of an agricultural building to commercial use.
Mr Brown previously hosted school educational visits to his farm under Higher Level Stewardship, and having toilet facilities already available in the yard was a bonus.
The Rutland Cricket Centre, based in Caldecott, Oakham, is now run by former Leicestershire cricketer Tom Flowers under a lease arrangement, which means it can be vacated during times the farmer requires the building for another use.
Mr Brown fitted the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) standard lighting and Tom Flowers Cricket Coaching (TFCC) installed the three-lane net and matting system.
The team has also installed a bowling machine with video analysis available to help players review and understand their technique better.
“It is the only dedicated indoor cricket facility available to the public within a 24-mile radius,” said Mr Brown.
“We are struggling to get young people engaged in sports like cricket, but I’m delighted we can do it here.”
TFCC organises all the bookings and coaching sessions, and it pays rent for the shed.
Mr Flowers said: “The centre started out just as an idea and it has gone a lot further than we thought possible.
“We are actively looking at other areas across the UK with a similar approach to replicate this model. We would welcome any discussions with other agricultural building owners who may be interested in helping us expand.”
For more information, visit the Rutland Cricket Centre website or call 07949 300611.