National Asian Cricket Council taking on MCC at Lord’s can improve participation, says chairman Gulfraz Riaz

National Asian Cricket Council taking on MCC at Lord's can improve participation, says chairman Gulfraz Riaz

It was a landmark day at the Home of Cricket on Wednesday as the NACC played against the MCC on the main ground for the first time; two T20 matches were contested with NACC Women playing their MCC counterparts before NACC Men played MCC men

Last Updated: 04/05/22 7:13pm

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For the first time, two teams of British South Asians, both men’s and women’s, have been playing against MCC sides at Lord’s

For the first time, two teams of British South Asians, both men’s and women’s, have been playing against MCC sides at Lord’s

National Asian Cricket Council chairman Gulfraz Riaz says the organisation’s teams being hosted by the MCC at Lord’s can go “a long way” to encouraging participation and inclusivity in the sport.

It was a landmark day at the Home of Cricket on Wednesday as the NACC played against the MCC on the main ground for the first time.

Two T20 matches were contested with NACC Women playing their MCC counterparts before NACC Men played MCC men, with the weather not scuppering proceedings after last year’s match was wiped out by rain.

The NACC’s aim is to support and promote the interests of the South Asian cricketing community and develop relationships with the ECB, county boards and other cricket groups.

“It can go a long way,” Riaz told Sky Sports.

“The MCC, with all its rich history and heritage, reached out to us some five years or so ago, so this journey with the MCC has been that long in the pipeline.”

The NACC’s visit to Lord’s comes as the ECB continues to carry out an action plan to tackle racism and discrimination in cricket, after a parliamentary committee found at the beginning of the year that racism in the sport is “deep-seated”.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee’s damning verdict came after Azeem Rafiq gave an emotional testimony about the racist abuse he faced during two stints at Yorkshire beginning in 2008 and ending in 2018.

“I think we’ve got to be realistic,” Riaz added. “Cricket’s had an issue, the spotlight’s been put on and rightly so and we’re learning from that. Once we’ve learnt what we need to do, it’s about firm action.

“I’m confident now with all the key stakeholders buying in to what needs to be done for betterment of cricket and the communities and all communities, not just the South Asian community, I think we’ll be more united as a cricketing family.”

NACC Women captain Minahil Zahoor, who is also a diverse communities officer at Warwickshire County Cricket Club, hopes the games at Lord’s can inspire others from the South Asian community to become invested in cricket.

Lord's opened its doors for a special Ramadan celebration as cricket looks to reconnect with the Muslim community after the racism scandal that has embroiled the sport in the last year

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Lord’s opened its doors for a special Ramadan celebration as cricket looks to reconnect with the Muslim community after the racism scandal that has embroiled the sport in the last year

Lord’s opened its doors for a special Ramadan celebration as cricket looks to reconnect with the Muslim community after the racism scandal that has embroiled the sport in the last year

Zahoor, who was born in Pakistan before moving to the UK as a teenager, told Sky Sports News: “It was fun. I haven’t played at Lord’s before so it’s been amazing.

“Females don’t get that many opportunities to play at Lord’s, while NAAC have never played at Lord’s so specifically for ethnic minorities it is a massive boost.

“They will see a lot of role models and want to be here next time around.

“I played for Scotland from Under 13s and up to seniors with Warwickshire and it’s been positive. I have had ample opportunities to play and I am proud of that.”

On her job at Warwickshire, Zahoor added: “My role is to get ethnic minorities into cricket at grassroots levels.

“Soft-ball cricket, glow-in-the-dark cricket, just to get females and ethnic minorities into cricket, whether they end up playing at Lord’s or just in their gardens.

“I am seeing an increase [in participation]. We have seen thousands come in and just enjoy themselves and enjoy cricket.”

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