Through dedicated coaching sessions in partnership with Chance to Shine, Wanstead CC starlets Hajarah Chaudhry, Safia Salim and Kiran Bhangu are contributing hugely to the advancement of cricket in Redbridge, east London. What began in 2014 as a small group of girls wanting to become more active has grown into a series of vibrant and popular sessions bringing cricket to local schoolkids in the area. 

After being approached by Saba Nasim, a qualified Level 2 coach and legend of Wanstead CC, numbers grew. For Saba, awarded the 2015 Asian Coach of the Year Award, it has been enormously rewarding to see these girls undertake their own Level 2 qualifications, becoming independent coaches themselves.

Their motivation is to give back to the community; for all those involved, ensuring they have fun is the priority, regardless of their competitive natures. “The girls have all improved, growing from novices to skilful competitive individuals,” Saba says, while Kiran adds: “Without the opportunities provided by Chance to Shine, we would never have considered it.”

The girls’ peers were at first surprised at their interest in cricket. “My friends at school thought it was absolutely hilarious, an Asian girl who wears a hijab playing cricket,” Hajarah says. But after persevering, they have since acted as role models for other girls who might not have tried the sport. Saba adds: “At the beginning, it was quite hard but once girls saw girls playing we started increasing in numbers every week.”

Mahdiyah is another participant in the sessions, and acknowledges another reason the girls might not be keen to play. “There are a lot of girls who don’t really put the effort into it when they play sport because they’re worried about how they look,” she says, but with encouragement they can really get into it and “put aside all of those fickle concerns,” while Mahdiyah’s sister, 13 year-old Amirah, has no such worries: “I think I look great in this uniform!” 

Watching a session take place is instructive. Even their warm-up, a simple game of ‘hand hockey’, gets the blood pumping while challenging the participants to think on their feet and work in a team environment. Spatial and tactical awareness is sharpened, along with hand-eye coordination and general athleticism. And all this before the cricketing skills kick in.

Support, in the form of a grant, from the Cricket Society for the Redbridge Girls Street Project has helped to deliver the programme. These funds were bequeathed by Vivienne Hoggarth, a Cricket Society member, who left money with the aim of helping young cricketers. 

Along with supporting the delivery, they also included a £300 bursary per year to support girls looking to progress into club cricket. The girls have all made the leap to join Wanstead CC and have been awarded £100 worth of equipment, as well as receiving the Heather Knight signature bat. It all helps the girls in take up the game