By ANISAH ARIF

England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) today celebrated six months of progress on its South Asian Action Plan as it announced £1.2 million of funding to develop a network of 2,000 female role models.

The community event took place in the Sports Lounge in Leicester with former champion England spinner Graeme Swann and his Strictly partner Oti Mabuse.

The grant, given by the National Lottery awarded by Sport England, will be used to retain and develop and expand cricket’s female volunteer network within the South Asian community.

The new volunteers ‘activators’ will merge coaching and mentoring to inspire and support the next generation of cricketers. They will help deliver the All Stars Cricket, ECB’s entry-level-cricket programme for 5-8 year olds, in seven cities and act as role models. This aims to show young people the positive part that cricket can play in their lives.

The aspiration to expand the female coaching network was one of the 11 key objectives outlined in the ECB’s South Asian Action Plan, launched in May to transform the way cricket engages with British South Asian communities. 30% of people surveyed during the consultation process for the plan said that more female coaches would encourage more South Asian women and girls to play the game.

Former leading England Women’s bowler Isa Guha and local school children from Coleman Primary School and Al Aqsa School all taking part in an All Stars Cricket session hosted by Leicestershire Community Engagement Officer, Amna Rafiq.

The Strictly stars joined women from around Leicester in a women’s cricket and Bollywood dance session, an exciting 90-minute fitness session which combines cricket Bollywood dance routines with cricketing skills.

 

Leicester County Cricket Club Community Engagement Officer, Amna Rafiq commented: “For me, growing up and getting into cricket, it wasn’t just about enjoying playing the game – which was important, it was the fact that I wanted to see women who looked like me and understood my heritage. I was fortunate that the mentors I had around me all understood my background and knew how to help develop my self-confidence and social skills.

“As a result of my own experiences, I’m incredibly passionate about this Action Plan and I know it’s already making a difference to the girls and young women that are involved in the programmes that I help run in Leicester”.

The new volunteers will work in seven cities (Birmingham, Bradford, London, Leeds, Leicester Manchester and Nottingham) with a high South Asian population.

Additional progress on the South Asian Action Plan includes:

  • Leyton Cricket Club in East London being chosen as the first pilot venue for the new Urban Cricket Centres, purpose-built sites specifically designed to provide cricket in urban areas
  • The installation of 58 non-turf pitches and renovation of 14 turf pitches in 2018 in Core Cities
  • The ECB T20 City Cup has expanded to reach 16 cities

ECB Non-Executive Director, Lord Kamlesh Patel said: “I’m pleased to say that in a relatively short space of time, progress has been made in a range of different areas including identifying our first Urban Cricket Centre and commissioning and installing 58 non-turf pitches. Today’s announcement of funding from Sport England shows that we are in a great position to deliver on another element of our plan.

Former England Women’s cricketer Isa Guha said: “Coming up through the ranks of cricket as a woman of South Asian heritage, I’m acutely aware of the importance of attracting young girls from a diverse range of backgrounds to play our great game.

“Not only do we need to create new ways of interacting with these girls, such as the local Bolly Cric-Hit programme that’s been so successful in Leicester, we also need to invest in attracting women into coaching and facilitator roles to help train and nurture the next generation of stars”.