In a new series of articles, Angela Kelly talks to local sportsmen and women about their love and commitment to their chosen sport. This week, she chats to top club man Warwick Milne.

NOT many cricketers could still turn out for their club’s first team at 52 but Warwick Milne did.

And anyone who knows the committed sportsman who has been a fixture at Heaton Cricket Club for more than 40 years will appreciate Warwick has a particular relationship with the sport that has proved hugely influential.

He’s 57 now, and officially “retired” but has been known to don his whites if someone pulls out of a team at the last minute.

And he’s happy to give the same 100 per cent he did when he first discovered the game as a nine year-old at the old Longsight primary school in Harwood.

When his family moved to Heaton, he attended Markland Hill primary school and his earliest “proper” cricketing memory is of playing a match against Church Road Primary School when he planned to score 50 and ended up with 11. “It was the top score but I still cried my eyes out – I was so disappointed!” he recalls.

He continued his love of cricket at Bolton School, playing for the senior school at 14 and later captaining the first team.

It was a teacher there, Peter Nightingale, who first introduced him to Heaton Cricket Club. “I played as a ringer in Bolton Holidays when I was about 15 which moved my game to another level entirely,” said Warwick.

The adept batter and bowler played briefly at the Green Lane club but Heaton was a good fit for the youngster and he quickly settled in there. “I loved the parochial nature of the League, still do,” he added. “And for a young bachelor of the parish the cricket, camaraderie and the whole social life were second to none.”

His idols as a young man were West Indies’ all-rounder Garry Sobers and South Africans Graham Pollock and Basil D’Oliveira. But in his own cricketing career, his idols closer to home included off-spinner Duncan Worsley, Brian Smithies (“an artist of a seam bowler”) and “any number of Eccleshares.”

His work as a chartered accountant took him away from the area for two years, to Yorkshire where he played in the North Yorkshire and South Durham League, but he returned to the Heaton club once more. He made his first- team debut in 1973, becoming captain in 1979 and then taking on the captaincy of the second team.

His versatility on the field was reflected off it as he involved himself in the popular club’s day-to-day running, and he’s long been a club official there.

Always quick to back his opinions with action, he took on the chairmanship of the Bolton Cricket League at a time when a controversial move was mooted to bring in promotion and relegation.

He was chairman for three years and now serves on the League’s executive body.

Warwick has seen changes in the game over years. “The technology of the bat and the standard of wickets are so different now it’s put the emphasis on the batter,” he explained.

“When I started playing 140 was a very good score, enough to win. Now you need around 220.”

What hasn’t changed is the importance of volunteers in the local game – “although people don’t want to get so involved these days” – and the potential enjoyment there.

While Warwick welcomes the influx of juniors that has given cricket in Bolton a “reasonable” future, he still stresses the importance of retaining adult players.

He also wants to keep the clubs as an important part of local communities, and believes the communities themselves should support them – or possibly face losing them.

One thing that will never change, however, is Warwick Milne’s passion for his sport. “I keep saying I’ll retire at 60,” he stated. “But, in reality, I suppose I won’t.”