Surinder Singh - Electoral Participation Officer at Sandwell Council and ECB Qualified cricket coach

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My relationship with cricket started when I was about 5 years old. We used to live in a house with a long entrance. My parents bought me a plastic bat and ball and my two brothers and I spent hours playing cricket at the entrance. By the age of eleven, I played for my school and until the age of 16, I played cricket like most English youngsters at the local park. I was more of a viewer and cricketing enthusiast but did not involve and engage myself any further.

This all changed when one day my niece, Preet, came home saying that she played cricket at school and she really enjoyed it. She asked me if I had a bat at home so that she could practice. Fortunately, in the cupboard collecting dust was a cricket bat that I had not touched for about 15 years. I started throwing a few balls and she naturally hit them all from close to the middle of the bat. I felt she had enormous ability and excellent for someone who just recently picked up the bat. This was confirmed by her physical education teacher who had been really impressed with Preet’s cricketing ability. This was a proud moment for me. Although I was born and raised in England, our family structure is one of Punjabi background. Unfortunately, his has meant that no females have played any sports at a decent or professional level in our immediate and extended family whether in England or India. 

 

After having a chat with Preet, we decided to enrol into a local project called Wicketz. Wicketz is funded by Lords Taverners and is held at our local park, a placed where I used to play 40 years ago. As the only female in a group of 20 boys, Preet has managed to hold her own. Following this, I was asked to become the coach which I have successfully attained. Since that moment I have totally immersed myself in the sport and have experienced some fantastic memories and have met some wonderful people in the process. One of my favourite moments was meeting my childhood idols and cricketing greats, Viv Richards and Steve Waugh.

I recently attended the 2019 Cricket World Cup which was a surreal moment in English cricket landscape. I was selected as the Area Leader for my home ground of Edgbaston – the fortress for the English Cricket team. It was a dream come true and to be part of the tournament was an unbelievable feeling. Edgbaston is situated in an area with incredible diversity whereby a lot of communities come together especially when it comes to cricket. It was wonderful mingling with fans and watching the teams play in the pinnacle event in world cricket. The atmosphere at the ground was electric. During the match between England and India, the noise, colour and passion was mind-blowing. You would have not been mistaken to think that the match was hosted in Mumbai or Mohali in India.

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Since my re-engagement with cricket has started, I have worked at the Ashes at Edgbaston as well as T20 games which I have really enjoyed. In the process, I have met many stars of the game including Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Glenn Maxwell and my personal favourite, Mitchell Johnson. Preet has also had the enviable opportunity to attend the final day of an Ashes test match and meet the likes of Stuart Broad and Moeen Ali. Recently, during her debut in Edgbaston at the Mayors Cup, Preet met Sam Hain, a Hong Kong born player who was raised in Australia. Sam is an outstanding talent and will hopefully one day play for England. Preet has since won her district league with Wolverhampton Cricket Club. She has received support from SM Cricket UK to progress her talent and hopefully one day, she will achieve her dream of playing for England too.

 

On the coaching front I have started to enjoy a lot of success as both my Under 8's and Under 12 girls teams have reached their district finals this year and I have started to mentor more people in coaching and encouraging participation in cricket. Cricket can be very useful in getting communities to engage and work together. The game has the important capacity to provide young people with confidence, effective communication and team mentality. This will enable them to become more active citizens in their local community and give them a better chance of reaching their goals.

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Shakti Gounden