A FORMER Northwich cricket captain and Hartford resident has been recognised on the New Year’s honours list.

John Pickup MBE, who was recently made honorary president of Cheshire County Cricket Club, received the honour for his voluntary services to community cricket.

The 76-year-old is also the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s Recreational Assembly, whose headquarters are based at Lord’s, having been a board director since the ECB was formed in1997.

The MBE came as a pleasant surprise to John, who received a phone call out of the blue in December.

“It’s always a surprise,” he explained. “You’re asked whether you will accept it first and then there’s the wait to see if you will actually be awarded it!

“I didn’t know anything until a few weeks ago, all they tell you is you’ll be going to receive it in the next seven months.

“It’s obviously very nice to have it myself, but it’s also recognition for Cheshire, Minor Counties cricket and the recreational game.”

Running parallel to a career in the legal profession at Moss and Haselhurst, John’s cricketing background began at Northwich CC and has gone on to see him represent the Minor Counties Cricket Association on the Test and County Cricket Board and become a member of the Major Match Group.

He added: “I played for Northwich a long time ago with Mike Talbot-Butler, the sports reporter from the Guardian!

“I was secretary and captain for a number of years in the 60s and 70s and I’ve just retired as chairman of Cheshire CCC to become president for 2014, it means a slightly more laid back role.

Mike offered his congratulations on also becoming a patron of the Cheshire County League and recently saw John handed the Minor Counties Championship trophy, for which Cheshire beat Cambridge.

“I was delighted Cheshire won and it was a nice way to go out,” added John.

“We’ve had a very successful spell the last 10 years, Cheshire cricket is very strong at the moment. I go to most matches and see a lot of cricket around the country.”

ECB chief executive David Collier praised the service John has paid to cricket at all levels.

He said: “John has given a lifetime’s service and this award is fitting recognition for the hugely important role he has played in the wider development of the sport both with ECB and its predecessor, the Test and County Cricket Board.

“He has been a great champion, in particular, of our recreational game and his knowledge and expertise in this area remain invaluable.”

And John feels the game has come a long way since he became an ECB board director 17 years ago.

“When we first became amalgamated with the professional game we virtually had no money,” he said.

“We’re now guaranteed at least 30 per cent of broadcasting income, which has made a big difference, with lots more money going into local clubs.

“The object is to improve the quality and see youngsters progress into the professional game, people like Joe Root came through, so we’ve had some success.

“I remember when England were near the bottom, but of course the more successful you are the more someone like Sport England will invest money – so success means more money and more players reaching an elite level.”