By Manisha Tailor
Many cricket professionals past and present, dignitaries and those from the local community graced the home of cricket, Lords Cricket ground, on October 7th for the inaugural Asian Cricket Awards 2014. This prestigious event, sponsored by Talk Home Mobile, brought together not just cricket lovers, but those who have a genuine passion for supporting British Asians in sport.
Co-founders of the Talk Home Mobile Asian Cricket Awards, Baljit Rihal and Jas Jassal BEM, spoke of the relevance of such awards in providing a pathway into the professional game. “The Asian community currently makes up more than 30 per cent of all participation in the game of cricket throughout the UK, with a high percentage involved at recreational level. More can be done by the authorities and county boards to engage in programmes to establish structured pathways into the professional game, but we’re very encouraged by the ECB’s commitment to these awards – and we believe we can collaborate in further engaging with the Asian community as laid out in their strategic plan”.
He acknowledged the support provided by sponsors and cricket governing bodies in aiding the success of the event. “The support we have received from our headline sponsor, Talk Home Mobile, The ECB and The Club Cricket Conference in putting together this event has been tremendous. It is a positive statement of their intent and commitment to the British
Former England captain and managing director of the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) hailed the day as fantastic in spreading the word of the sport. “To see the wonderful passion that the Asian community brings to cricket, as I’ve seen many times when I’ve been overseas playing in India and other parts of the world, is fantastic. The Asian Cricket Awards has been a fantastic day for cricket. To see a community spreading the word of cricket is fantastic. It doesn’t matter what community, we try and support the game.”
England and Worcestershire’s Moeen Ali walked away with the ‘Player of the Year’ award, and quite rightly deserved mentioning the significance the role volunteers play in developing young people. “It doesn’t get any better than this. I feel very proud and privileged to be here. I felt honoured to be in the top four for this award, and I am very proud to be the first guy to win the Asian Cricket Awards Player of the Year. Volunteers play a huge role in cricket – if it wasn’t for them, most of us wouldn’t be here today, so it is great to see them being honoured”.
Nasser Hussain OBE, former England captain, now presenter on Sky Sports, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. “It is a great honour and privilege to receive this award. I have always been very proud of the Asian part of my heritage, and my Dad would have been extremely proud to see me win an award like this.”
Grassroots in any sport is extremely valuable and the reason for this, in my opinion, is 2-fold. Firstly, It helps build a foundation for participation in the respective field; secondly it enables community cohesion which in turn can have a significant impact on social and psychological development for young people and adults alike. This is the very reason I feel awards like this are crucial, as they really do highlight those taking part at grassroots.
“Grassroots cricket is all about pathways, finding out where the gaps are, getting a strategy in place. Our aim is to create a link and get our promising talents into the main arena like Lord’s, the home of cricket. I am speechless, really touched and overjoyed. I would like to thank everyone for their support.” (Gopi Raj, England Tamil Cricket League and winner of the grassroots award).
We are all aware that Asian women in sport are still very much under-represented. Although participation at grassroots level has increased over time the number of British Asian women within the professional game, generally, is very low. The Asian Cricket Awards recognise the importance of women role models and young Simran Panesar, winner of the amateur player of the year award, is a fine example of what can be achieved with determination and commitment.
“I’m so proud I have got this award. It just shows that hard work does pay off. I’m from Birmingham. I got into cricket because my younger cousin was playing for a club and they wanted girls to form a team. From performing for my club they put me into county and then from there I’ve developed from under-15s to under-19s and then the senior Warwickshire ladies team. This award has given me more of a reason to go out and coach younger children and, as I’m a female, I hope I will be a role model for a lot of girls younger than me”. (Simran Panesar, Warwickshire U19s).
Worcestershire County’s Salma Bi was awarded the ‘woman in cricket’ title. “This is amazing, a really special feeling. It’s the drive and the passion that I really enjoy from playing cricket. It gives you something positive to work hard for”.
Having role models to aspire to is imperative to the cause, and one woman that comes to mind for me is Isa Guha (IPL TV presenter, former England bowler) who was honoured with the media award.
“Having an awards centred around British Asian contributions will attract attention throughout the country. These awards are important to recognise the thousands of men and women in this country who give their time to developing and attracting interest in the game. The support from the ECB will also encourage links to form between these communities and the overall governing of the game in this country, rather than being isolated. Furthermore, it will also help to discover an untapped wealth of talent, many of whom could go on to play for England.”
Isa Guha is an example of a woman who began her journey, like many, at grassroots. But her sheer determination, resilience and work ethic has seen her not only represent county level, but play international cricket for her country, England. Isa epitomises strength in character and sincerity and is a true role model for British Asian women in sport.
Other worthy winners on the night included:
Ravi Patel (Middlesex. England Lions) – Professional Young Player of the Year
Qasim Ali (Lancashire South Asian Talent Search, England
Physical Disability Squad) – Coach of the Year
Amjad Aziz (vice-chairman Birmingham Cricket League – Parks
League) – Behind the Scenes
London Tigers (inner-city London) – Asian Cricket Club of the Year
Naz Khan (chairman, Attock CC) – Inspiration Award