Given the limited opportunities to play in the covid-affected summer of 2020, this year has been huge for the recreational game of cricket with multiple new programmes introduced and the game growing across the West Midlands.
Having initially launched in 2017, Warwickshire Cricket Board (WCB) has this year grown the national All Stars programme (for children aged 5-8) to its highest numbers ever of 2,649 children across 60 Clubs. This has been followed by the introduction of Dynamos (for children aged 8-11), with 50 clubs running programmes and accommodating 1,202 children.
More than 30 per cent of those playing each week over the summer in the in All Stars and Dynamos programmes are girls. In recent weeks, Warwickshire Cricket Board has given a further 115 girls, at five schools, an opportunity to play its revolutionary glow in the day cricket programme, GLOW, with two festivals staged.
“The women and girls game continues is attracting more and more participants each year,” said WCB General Manager Ed McCabe. “We now have 22 clubs running women’s and girl’s sections but are working hard to keep this growing.
“The launch of The Hundred this year was fantastic for the women’s game and we welcomed such huge crowds for Birmingham Phoenix games at Edgbaston. Those numbers are going to increase in 2022 with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham creating even more exposure for the women’s game. We need to harness this by creating more opportunities for these inspired youngsters to play.”
At the end of 2020 Warwickshire County Cricket Club and WCB confirmed that is would deliver the African Caribbean Engagement (ACE) programme in Birmingham, after launching in London earlier in the year and securing Sport England and ECB funding.
The programme has now given 500 primary school children their first experience of cricket, whilst also creating new cricket opportunities at the ACE hubs at Handsworth Cricket Club. An ACE academy has subsequently been launched for the most promising players in the programme, whilst an expansion into secondary schools is underway.
The WCB community team also launched its pioneering Midnight Ramadan Cricket League, which gave youths from four parts of Birmingham the opportunity to play the game competitively in a safe, indoor environment after Iftar.
“We’ve taken huge steps forward through ACE and the Ramadan League,” added McCabe. “We recognise that cricket sometimes has to be different and innovative if we want to engage as many people as possible. Ramadan cricket is a great example of this, by keeping the Edgbaston Cricket Centre open and providing coaches later in the evening, so that safe and competitive cricket can be played later after fasts have been broken.”
Alongside ACE and Ramadan Cricket WCB runs an additional 16 free cricket programmes across Birmingham and Coventry for children and young people to participate, through the Chance to Shine programme.
Through the speed in which WCB brought back its Chance to Shine Street programmes and its excellent work delivered to 18,000 primary school children in 198 schools, it was recently named Cricket Board of the Year at the Chance to Shine Awards.
Addition honours in 2021 were recognised locally for Knowle & Dorridge Boys, who were crowned under 15s national champions, whilst Berkswell Women won the national indoor championships.
Outside of the huge programme of domestic and major match cricket at Edgbaston, Warwickshire CCC uses the venue as an opportunity to inspire people to get involved in the game.
More than 160 people got the opportunity to play at Edgbaston in 2021 through the Mayor’s Cup and a festival for children aged nine and under. Director of Cricket Paul Farbrace and men’s First Team Coach Mark Robinson also staged a training session for the newly formed Unicorns, which is Birmingham’s first and only the second national inclusive LGBTQ+ team.
McCabe added: “We’ve made great progress this year and we have built a great platform to get many more people of different backgrounds and ages getting involved in the game in 2022.”
Day Four tickets available for England v India Test
England will host India twice in Birmingham next summer with a five-day LV= Insurance Test Match starting on Friday 1 July, before competing in a Vitality IT20 on Saturday 9 July.
Only tickets for Day Four of the Test Match are still available. Buy online today at tickets.edgbaston.com.