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When Katherine Woodgate meets new people, it's often to arrest them. She is a detective by trade and admits it can get difficult to interact with others against a backdrop of crime. That's one of the reasons she decided to sign up as a Cricketeer for this year's Champions Trophy.
"I never get to know people under nice circumstances but here everybody is just smiling and happy, unless their team is on the losing side. It's really nice to be able to meet people that way," she said.
Woodgate is one of 800 volunteers who worked across the three venues at this year's event. Taking their lead from the World Twenty20 and last year's Olympic Games, the ECB and ICC decided to invest in the project again. When they advertised, 2600 people responded, many of whom had worked on the previous two events.
They narrowed them down according to simple criteria. "They must be above 18 years of age and have a smiley, happy face, and a welcoming personality," Ally Jarvis, the volunteer co-ordinator said. "We recruited people from the Olympics but also people who help the community game across the clubs."
While volunteers don't get paid, they do receive food and drink on the day, uniforms, and complimentary tickets, which, for any cricket-loving fan who wants to take that one step closer to the game, is enough incentive to get involved, even if it's at a cost to themselves.
Woodgate is from Hertfordshire and made a one-hour train to The Oval on all the days she was on duty. Jarvis remembered one person who made regular three-hour trips between Durham and Birmingham to be part of the event.
Once at the venue, Cricketeers operate in one of the two areas they have been specifically trained in. These include hospitality, media, meet-and-greet or marketing activations. They employ skills that Jarvis hopes they can take into future careers. Woodgate did everything from offer directions at the nearest tube station to helping in the photo booths and carrying out the flag in the semi-final.
"I asked especially if I could carry the England flag," she said. "Although if I had to carry the South African flag I wouldn't have minded because quite a few of their players play for the county I support, Middlesex."
She is not looking to use the opportunity to change career paths, even though some volunteers are. The vast majority, though, are simply doing it for the love of the game. Many Cricketeers have already retired. "All they do is volunteer at various programmes because there is such awareness, especially in London, and such a volunteer culture," Woodgate said.
As a result, they have become what Jarvis calls "the face of the tournament", and have so impressed the organisers, they are likely to make reappearances in the near future. The ECB will use Cricketeers during the T20 series against New Zealand and are considering extending their services to the Ashes as well.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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