Popular cricket league returns

Walthamstow-based Rat Pack Cricket Club is one of several local teams competing in the National Cricket League
Walthamstow-based Rat Pack Cricket Club is one of several local teams competing in the National Cricket League

Thomas Quigley on the local comeback of cricket

Cricket has finally got back underway following the delay to its 2020 season caused by the pandemic.

With the first games being played over the weekend of 18/19th July, 52 clubs belatedly began their National Cricket League (NCL) season, competing in two 20-over games. More games are scheduled each weekend until September.

The league, founded in 2012, is based in Leytonstone and features several Waltham Forest sides, including Leyton Avengers and Leytonstone Phoenix, as well as clubs from Redbridge, Newham and other surrounding areas. In total, seven local grounds within the borough are used to provide cricket for all.

Sajid Patel, NCL co-founder and league secretary, told me there was some hesitation with starting the season but that all necessary precautions had been taken. “There were many concerns and apprehensions from clubs, players and the league itself,” Sajid said.

NCL includes a large number of players of south-east Asian heritage, a group that has been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. But the league was keen to ensure all guidelines from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and UK government were adhered to and followed.

Sajid said it was thanks to “hard work by all” that the season was able to begin and that he was “really pleased, especially seeing players and club members being able to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the game”.

Grounds staff and volunteers have made sure that hand sanitisers and toilet facilities are accessible and safe for players to use. Sajid said: “It may sound easy and straightforward, but spread out over the borough, and with the sheer nature of a cricket pitch itself, it took a lot of planning for the first weekend to go ahead.”

Weather permitting, Sajid is confident that games can continue to be staged for the remainder of the summer. He added: “The NCL gives young cricketers and the wider audience a platform to build their confidence, not only on the cricket arena, but in life as well.”

For more information about the NCL:
Visit nationalcricketleague.co.uk