Big day of action at the FCG

Edgbaston isn’t the only ground playing host to a Finals Day this weekend. On Sunday, youngsters from Bradford and Sheffield will travel to the Fischer County Ground, Leicester to compete in the final of the ECB T20 City Cup.

The competition brings together teams from 16 cities and is focused on finding talented cricketers aged 16-21, as Mohammed Arif, National Growth Manager for Diverse Communities at the ECB explains, “There are many players who haven’t had the chance to play in county age group cricket or haven’t been on the talent pathway. We know there is an awful lot of good youngsters out there, this is about giving them the opportunity.”

This year around 750 players have taken part, with more than 70% of participants from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. The tournament is part of the ECB South Asian Action Plan which aims to the grow the game and make sure it is open to everyone.

After the final, up to 32 players will be nominated to attend Development Days at Lord’s, working for a potential place on the coveted MCC Young Cricketers (YC) scheme – following in the footsteps of greats of the game like Sir Ian Botham and Mark Waugh.

According to Steve Kirby, MCC YCs Head Coach, this is a key part of the work the club does. He said: “I’m hugely passionate about giving people a chance that might have otherwise been missed. We want to give the players an opportunity to get spotted and hopefully become professional cricketers.

“We’ve found a broader base of players this year and I’ve been really impressed with the talent. We’ll pick the best players to come down for two days at Lord’s, to show them what first-class standard is and how they can reach it. We want to help them get better and, for some, reach their dream of playing professionally.”

For Mo Bobat, ECB Player Identification Lead, the City Cup gives him an opportunity to see a range of gifted players, “With Player ID you are trying to predict talent and their development – and that isn’t easy. I get excited by seeing a group of young people passionate about the game. I’ve seen a lot of good energy and enthusiasm in the City Cup and there are some good cricketers.”

Finalists Bradford have had some extra support this year in the shape of former Leicestershire CCC and England seamer Ajmal Shahzad, in a link set up by Yorkshire Cricket Foundation representative Nasa Hussain, “We got in Ajmal, Usman Arshad (pictured before making his debut for the Foxes this week) and Ghulam Rafique as coaches. My theory was to have people that have been there, seen it and done it. Then they can pass on their wisdom and their coaching tips to these lads.”

Ajmal had no doubt that he wanted to be involved. He said: “It’s close to my heart, Bradford is where cricket started for me. When I was growing up there were a lot of youngsters who missed the boat, they weren’t picked up as circumstances didn’t allow it.

“I think this competition is as good as any for young South Asian players to get into the shop window, try to get noticed by counties and see if they can progress their game. So, for me, especially as I am dipping my toe in the coaching world, it’s a great place to start and to give back to Bradford.”

Talking about the final Ajmal added: “It was great to get the win (in the semi) under our belt and now we go to the final to see how we can compete against the best in the country.”

The match will be followed by another important event at the Fischer County Ground. Sports stars and politicians take to the crease in aid of White Ribbon UK, a national campaign for the eradication of male violence against women.

In conjunction with LCCC and the National Asian Cricket Council (NACC), the event will see two teams, The Lords and Commons XI vs. White Ribbon/NACC XI, compete for the Regal White Ribbon Trophy at the Fischer County Ground.

Among the stars taking part are Leicestershire CCC Chief Executive Wasim Khan MBE, Head Coach Paul Nixon and former Kent CCC and England star Minal Patel.

Professor Lord Patel OBE, non-executive director of the English Cricket Board, is a major supporter of White Ribbon UK and will be captaining the Lords and Commons XI team.

* Sunday begins with the ECB T20 City Cup from 11am and the Lords & Commons XI vs White Ribbon / NACC XI from 2:30pm.