Essex prospect Feroze Khushi believes the ECB’s new South Asian Action Plan will help propel plenty more British Asian youngsters into professional cricket.
The 19-year-old batsman, who was born in east London to parents of Pakistani origin, lists world stars such as Virat Kohli and Shahid Afridi as his cricketing idols while growing up.
But one of the key aims of the ECB initiative, focusing on South Asian communities in the UK, is for Khushi and other homegrown players to themselves become the visible role models for aspiring youngsters.
Khushi, who earned his first professional contract with Essex last year, was in attendance at Thursday’s launch event for the project – a girls’ cricket session at Leyton County Ground, close to his home.
The session brought girls from five nearby primary schools – and one from west London – together for a skills and match programme which was run by coaches from the Capital Kids Cricket charity.
He said: “It’s definitely a work in progress and I’m confident that, in the near future, there will be a lot more Asian players and coaches coming through.
“I used to love watching people like Kohli and Afridi – guys from an Asian background with great technique and I learned a lot from watching them.
“One day I hope I can help inspire young Asian players from different areas in England to come and play cricket. To see so many Asian kids here today is fantastic.
“I’m so happy to see that and I think that the strategies being put in place will get more Asian players making it at professional and maybe even international level, which would be great.”
Khushi’s father Mohammed, who played club cricket in Essex for around 25 years, is also an ECB qualified level three coach – and one of the key recommendations of the action plan is to increase BAME coaching representation.
Other key points include the development of Urban Cricket Centres, increasing cricket programmes in primary schools and an improved scouting system.
The plan is enthusiastically backed by former Essex player Arfan Akram – who now oversees cricket at the University of East London and, like Khushi, plays club cricket for Wanstead and Snaresbrook.
Akram said: “For me, the single most exciting part of this is that the British Asian community feel as though they’ve now got a voice in cricket.
“There are so many diverse faiths and cultures within the community. But there’s a platform now for people to listen and adapt.
“For example, we run a session for girls at Redbridge Sports Centre. It’s about finding a venue which is accessible and has the requirement of being enclosed with no windows so parents are happy that their girls are in a safe environment. That comes from understanding their culture and beliefs.
“The South Asian community are hugely driven when it comes to education, but sport can stop at a certain age because education – for all the right reasons – takes priority.
“Now we have a beautiful opportunity to showcase a real balance and say cricket complements your education – it can give you transferable skills when it comes to looking for a job, like teamwork.
“The core points fit into the wider ECB strategy – which is about growing the game and bringing talented athletes into the system.”
ECB chief executive Tom Harrison joined Khushi, Akram and the media in Leyton, with similar events being held at Bradford Park Avenue in Yorkshire, and at Sparkhill Park in Birmingham this evening.
Full details of the South Asian Action Plan are available here https://www.ecb.co.uk/news/683317/ecb-s-south-asian-action-plan-revealed