Cricket is a sport traditionally associated with leafy pastures but those spaces are at a premium – nowhere more so than in London. Cricket clubs and the people who run them need to find innovative ways to adapt the game to a situation which is far from ideal…
This is how a tape-ball cricket community developed in East London. You’ll see them playing with a tennis ball tightly wrapped in tape. There are six teams whose players already know each other, and arrange to meet up regularly using WhatsApp groups. Most of them are from South Asian communities which account for a third of recreational cricketers and 79% play every week, according to England and Wales Cricket Board’s estimate. These, and other groups of players, are among the focus communities targeted in the Governing Body’s South Asian Action Plan which was launched last month.
Some of the measurable aims of the plan include installing more non-turf pitches, establishing mentoring and talent-identification programmes, making coaching at the top level more representative, and also supporting a greater variety of formats.
The engagement of this community in East London, was hugely impacted by the efforts of Arfan Akram. Formerly a committed player, Arfan went into banking in the City of London, before realising that he needed to stay connected to the game that he loved. He’s now Essex Country Cricket Club’s cricket coordinator in East London and oversees the development of the game in the area where he grew up.
Arfan explained to London Sport: “There is a huge challenge faced by cricket and that is the perception of the game. It’s normally portrayed as playing in white clothes and on a green outfield… As London has become a 24-hour city with people having less leisure time and more options, the growth of participation in tape-ball cricket has been huge”.
Tape-ball is becoming more and more popular in East London and the South Asian community has truly embraced it. Arfan told us why: “It can be played anywhere from car parks, sports halls, streets and mainly in local parks… Tape-ball cricket challenges the traditional perception of cricket and takes the game back to its fundamental routes which is a challenge between bat and ball. The essence of tape-ball cricket is that it has the power to activate any part of London to act like a park for the respective local community to empower people to enjoy the game they love… anytime, anywhere, everywhere is a cricket ground”.
Do you want to hear more about how you can get involved in tape-ball cricket? Email Arfan or check East London Cricket’s Facebook page.
London holds some great opportunities for physical activity and sport outdoors and cricket is just one of them. If you want to find about others, get involved in one of the nearly 300 events organised during the London National Park City Week.