The Cricket World Cup will have a massive impact – Joe Denly

This summer will see England host the Cricket World Cup and The Ashes in the same year for only the second time ever, and the first since 1975.

England’s male cricketers have the chance to inspire the next generation of cricketers in this country just as their female counterparts did with that remarkable World Cup triumph two years ago.

While England’s women rightly earned the nation’s plaudits in 2017, another England player was in the process of rejuvenating his career on the county circuit that year.

Joe Denly scored more than 1,800 runs for Kent across all formats and was the top scorer in the NatWest T20 Blast.

After another hugely successful year in 2018, Denly’s form earned him a place in all three England squads in the Caribbean this winter as well as a lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) contract.

The 33-year-old has had a whirlwind 12 months and believes a home Cricket World Cup could have a huge impact on this country.

“The World Cup can only have a positive effect I would imagine. Certainly, with white-ball cricket worldwide, most youngsters grow up watching more Twenty20 and one-day cricket and that is the way they are brought up, trying to hit sixes and seeing these entertaining players.

“I think that is what is the biggest interest in terms of the younger generation and I'm sure there is a lot of excitement. Young kids are very eager for the World Cup to get started and see some of their favourite players taking to the stage in their own country.”

Football remains by far the most popular sport in England, but with no men’s major competitions this summer – aside from the one-week Nations League Finals in June – could cricket ever match football in terms of its profile?

“Cricket out here (in India) is absolutely mental, it’s like a religion. IPL season is absolutely crazy, and I don’t know if we would ever see that in England.

“Cricket is growing, and the introduction of The Hundred competition next year is going to be a very interesting time for English cricket and how that engages with the public and the younger generation.

“Hopefully that can be a real turning point in terms of making cricket a lot more popular and get it competing with the likes of football and other sports in this country.

“I don't think it's a massive gap, England have enjoyed success in white-ball cricket over the past few years and I'm sure the following is pretty big.”

The world has changed a great deal since England last hosted a men’s Cricket World Cup two decades ago, not least through the advancements in technology and introduction of global social media giants.

When Denly made his Kent debut in 2004, smartphones and social media were in their infancy, a far cry from today’s reality.

“With the introduction of the likes of Twitter and Instagram, coverage of cricket has certainly changed quite a lot over the years.

“I only joined Instagram eight or nine months ago so I'm a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to social media, but a lot of sportsmen these days use it as a great platform to get their name more known worldwide.

“You certainly have to be careful with what you post, but it's also a great way of getting your life out there in a positive light and engaging with fans on a consistent basis.

“We were exposed to media training growing up, particularly during my time as a younger player and coming up through the academy system at Kent and being involved with England 'A' groups.

“Nowadays there is an emphasis on not only trying to enhance your cricket skills but also understanding what social media is and trying to have a positive social networking presence.”

Denly was awarded a testimonial year for Kent this season following the many years that he has served the county across two separate spells.

He returned to the club in 2015 after a difficult three-year spell at Middlesex, something that he feels was important for his development and contributed to his remarkable campaign in 2018.

“I think being that little bit older and more experienced and understanding my game a little bit more, not necessarily technically, but mentally, and dealing with failure a lot better were all contributing factors (to his success).

“It's no secret my time at Middlesex was rough for me personally and I went through some pretty low points and I found myself playing second team cricket.

“Personally, I put too much pressure on myself after getting dropped from England when I originally debuted all those years ago. When you do that you forget some of the basics of batting and you take your eye off the ball and I certainly suffered a couple of years of disappointing performances.

“Now I'm just enjoying my cricket and having a lot of fun and I think I deal with everything that comes with being a professional sportsman a lot better than I did a few years ago.”

Denly made his Test debut in the Caribbean in January and a maiden half-century in the final match of the series in St Lucia has him dreaming of making his Ashes bow later this summer.

“Making my Test debut was very special. To be honest, I probably wasn't expecting to get a Test call-up at my age with there being so many good players around the country at the time.

“I'd never given up hope of playing Test cricket that is for sure and to finally make my debut in the West Indies was a very special moment for myself and for my family.”

Denly’s surprise call-up to IPL side Kolkata Knight Riders meant that he had to miss the launch event for his own testimonial, but there are several events still to come throughout the year.

They include a pre-World Cup and Ashes Dinner at The City Grange with special guests Sir Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan and Alec Stewart, golf at the prestigious Princes Golf Club at Sandwich Bay, lunch in The Long Room at Lord’s and a T20 match at Whitstable CC, the club where it all started for Denly.

For a full list of events and to find out more about how you can get involved, visit http://www.joedenlytestimonial2019.co.uk/.