The National Asian Cricket Council Wasim Khan MBE (CEO, Leicestershire CCC)
At a time of many changes in the professional and recreational game in England, it is great to see a century old organisation like the Club Cricket Conference who themselves have over the years faced challenges and seen many changes re-establish itself, by aligning the South Asian Cricketing Communities with the ECB, County Cricket Boards and the mainstream cricketing structure.
Over the last 4 years, Gulfraz Riaz, the CCC’s Cricket Development Manager, has aimed to establish the needs of the vast South Asian cricketing community and to understand how best to facilitate the relationships. On the 23rd November 2014, 65 cricketing heads from across the country attended a one-day conference at Edgbaston Cricket Ground. The diversity of the turnout was remarkable, with the Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan/Tamil and Bangladeshi communities all being represented. I was delighted to have been asked by Gulfraz to make the opening speech.
The outcome from this conference was that a National body would be set up that would represent the interests of the vast South Asian Cricketing Community. The purpose of the body was two-fold: firstly, it would become the voice of the South Asian communities across the country and, secondly, it was there to challenge the communities on the contributions they were making to mainstream cricket. By the end of the conference, the “National Asian Cricket Council” had been formed, with an elected interim Executive Board made up of two representatives from each of Yorkshire, Lancashire, East & West Midlands, Bristol, Wales and the South East.
A constitution with clear governance accountability and aims and objectives followed and I was honoured to be appointed the first President along with Lawrence Booth as Patron and seven cricketing ambassadors: Moeen Ali, Ravi Bopara, Adil Rashid, Isa Ghua Vikram Solanki, Min Patel and Kabir Ali. The South Asian Cricketing Community is a very important and significant part of the cricketing family in this country. The large majority of them have existed for anything between 20 – 35 years, representing hundreds of leagues, clubs and thousands of players – with most of them still playing in the parks.
In my opinion, it has taken far too long for the South Asian Cricketing Community to be taken seriously. In the main they have had to rely on themselves to develop and sustain their cricket singlehandedly. If we evidence the statistics, anything between 30-40% of all recreational cricket in the UK is played by the South Asian Cricketing Community. This in itself is a startling figure and leads to the very real question as to why South Asians are proportionally under-represented within the professional game, across administration and throughout professional coaching, umpiring, scoring and groundsmanship. It is fair to acknowledge at this stage that whilst some South Asian Cricketing Communities around the Country have been very proactive, others have not.
The NACC has a very important and hugely significant role to play in bringing the ECB, County Cricket Boards and communities together. Proactive dialogue needs to open up to see how partners such as the NACC, who understand their market place, can support the objectives cricket has around growth, participation and engagement.
Official recognition of the NACC and a clearly defined role of how it can support cricket is needed urgently. The South Asian Cricketing Community at this present time is extremely vibrant. However if we cast our mind back to the once thriving Caribbean cricketing world in the UK, we will know that we witnessed the sad decline of a once proud cricketing community. There is a danger that the South Asian Cricket Community could go the same way if their needs are not met effectively. I believe that a body such as NACC has the right people on their Executive Board to make a real impact in this country.
The mind set of integration is very important and I know from the people who were present at the conference in November 2014 that they are highly motivated and forward thinking in their aspirations. The NACC needs to remain independent, but work in close partnership with the ECB. I am also convinced that the mind-set of the NACC will need to challenge itself and its members to think about how they will contribute to the recreational and professional game in this country moving forward. I am sure they are very much up for the challenge and certainly want to work towards not just providing a player pathway for their better players, but also to make an impact in all areas of recreational cricket.
I am pleased and encouraged to learn that the ECB have started meaningful dialogue with the NACC and that a clear partnership pathway is now being agreed as all parties move forward. In finishing, I wish the CCC all the very best for the future and also congratulate the NACC on taking a positive step forward. The ECB has an opportunity to become the first National Governing Body in this country to support and meaningfully engage with a body such as the NACC. I know that if this happens, cricket will truly become a sport that embraces all of the country’s recreational cricketers.