Dan Musson and the rest of the ECB's facilities and investment team are braced for a hectic start to 2016 providing practical support to the many clubs who have been hit by Storm Desmond, Eva, or in some especially unfortunate cases both.
Musson, one of four F&I managers who covers the north from the ECB's base at Emirates Old Trafford, was already booked for a three-day tour of the clubs who were left counting the cost of Storm Desmond at the start of December, mostly in Cumbria.
Then Eva wreaked havoc through Lancashire and Yorkshire to dominate the Christmas news bulletins, and leave another clutch of clubs in need of urgent help.
"We have a team of four facilities and investment managers spread through the country, and we'll be visiting every single club affected," explained Musson, who was surprised to be asked to appear on BBC radio's Test Match Special during their coverage from Durban to bring cricket-loving listeners up to date – and drew approving comments from Jonathan Agnew and even Geoffrey Boycott.
"It's a network that has been built up by Bruce Cruse [the ECB's Head of Places] over the last decade. The formation of the England and Wales Cricket Trust, which had been set up specifically to send charitable funds into community and recreational cricket, had created a position where we had funds to support clubs when they were badly affected."
"Our first major flood relief effort was in 2007, centred around the Midlands and a bit further south into Oxfordshire, Bucks and the Thames Valley," Musson continued. "Between myself and Tim Nicholls, who had also started work as a case officer the previous year focusing on the south west and Wales, we visited every club affected, and helped with funding contracts and in some cases direct support of their recovery efforts.
"That set the template and it's meant that for the subsequent flood events we've had in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014 in various parts of the country, we've been able to develop guidance for clubs. We have formalised an emergency fund for incidents like this. We've also worked with Cranfield University to draw up a map of clubs at risk of flooding – which turned out to be around a third of our clubs, which is quite a frightening statistic, and highlights the importance of being able to respond.
"On the ECB website there are a number of resources for clubs to use, one of them specific to sediment and the health and safety aspects of that – which can be serious, as one club found when they discovered arsenic in the sediment left behind by a flood. There is also a step by step guide and a template for clubs to use when they're contacting us – the first port of call is firstname.lastname@example.org.
"For us the process breaks down into three phases, and the first is helping clubs get back on their feet. It usually takes three or four weeks for them to be ready for a visit, by the time the floodwaters have receded, they've had insurance visits and they know what they need. We can help with uninsured and under-insured costs and excesses, because often clubs just can't cope with this kind of catastrophic event.
"This phase also tends to include getting the ground back up to a playable condition, recovering the square and the outfield, which might be a case of removing silt to landfill, and bringing in contractors. For my visits up in Cumbria from January 13-15 I'll be accompanied by Ian Mather-Brewster from the Institute of Groundsmanship who has specific cricket expertise and has provided invaluable advice to numerous clubs over the years.
"The support team Bruce has built up at Old Trafford are able to turn things around much more quickly than would normally happen with this sort of thing. We just assist and get the money out to clubs, with the aim of getting as many of them as possible back out there playing for the start of the season.
"The second phase is medium term, slightly longer recovery work such as repairing damage to pavilions and grounds that might need to wait until the end of the season for deep renovation or something similar.
"Phase three is helping clubs to look at floodproofing for the future – bigger walls or fences, raising machinery storage, things like that.
"It's a fairly well worn procedure now, and we also helped Sport England develop their procedures on similar lines, so that for the last couple of incidents they have also had an emergency fund of their own which our clubs have been able to draw from – Cockermouth have just received £5,000 from that fund to help with the damage from Storm Desmond."
Musson will be heading for Cockermouth, the West Cumbrian club where Ben Stokes developed his skills when his dad was coaching the nearby Workington rugby league club, having heard some encouraging news.
"IOG (Institute of Groundsmanship) regional pitch advisor Ian Mather-Brewster has already been up there and the early indications are it's not as bad as 2009, when they were devastated and couldn't play on their ground for the whole of the following season," he said. "This time it hasn't affected the pavilion or the playing surface as badly."
Fingers crossed there will be plenty of other clubs currently fearing the worst whose pills are similarly sweetened in the coming days and weeks – but at least all can be reassured that however bad the damage, support will be available after the deluge.
"Obviously these can be difficult times for the people involved, but this year more than ever it's been great to see how the cricket network comes together, and can offer practical help," added Musson. "The Cricket Boards in Cumbria and Northumberland have set up some crowd funding which has received terrific support from other clubs and members of the public. We're so lucky to have so many people who care so much about cricket. In the end, that is the game's greatest resource of all."
First published: www.ecb.co.uk, December 2015