The Redbridge Rangers took their seventh victory of the Chance to Shine Street competition with a bang. The girls had won consecutively a first place title over the two years the scheme has run, only losing out on victory and obtaining second once.  The Redbridge rangers had recently played in a tournament at the Oval winning all four of their group matches, with their best batter Umaimah Maqsood scoring an average of over 20 in each of the 5 over games. Alongside their best bowler Maaham Ali who took nearly two wickets in every over she bowled!

“Everyone’s come a really long way, in both their cricket skills and their ability to work amongst a team of mixed individuals” answered Hajarah Chaudhry the captain of the team when I interviewed her. The scheme run in Redbridge hosted a tight knit group of girls who had flourished in the game and were determined young women proving themselves to society today, that women’s cricket is and shall be played at an equally respected level. These girls in the Chance to shine street team alongside their female leaders give hope to the younger generation that males should not only be the dominators and the primary gender to be considered of, in such a game, furthermore to confirm that the standard of skills through the genders is equal from not only a local competitive level but also escalating up to a professional and an international level.

It was a growing concern that Cricket as a game, which had once been the symbolism of national sport in England, in the 18th century, had now become a leisurely sport for those of a higher class, status or of a higher wealth. However, due to the launch of this Chance to shine scheme, which provides young people the opportunity to play cricket in areas where there is limited space at no cost to them and in local leisure centre hardball courts with easy access, it has engaged more than 27,000 young people nationally to play the sport since it began back in 2005. It as hopes to expand, not only in participant numbers but also with more volunteers and young coaches.  The scheme provides an opportunity to those who are unable to afford or reach professionally structured coaching for the game alongside the provision of competitive opportunities at the regular tournaments held during every school holiday.

“Not only have I learnt the basic skills which allows me to play the game at a competitive level confidently, but also it also opened up many social branches for me, allowing me to create a friendship with my team mates those of whom are from all kinds of social and cultural backgrounds” says a member of the Redbridge Rangers team, Emman Bhangu.

The scheme has not only allowed participants to develop in their skills and knowledge of the game but to also use cricket as a tool to engage youths and divert or deter them from negative influences within the communities, with many people resulting in spending their spare time practicing bowling on a hard court instead of being under the influence of peer pressure to join things such as gangs due to the simple answer of boredom or having no other good reason to spend their time elsewhere.

“Chance to Shine is more than just playing cricket," says Saba Nasim coach of Redbridge Rangers girls team since May 2013. "It provides youngsters with the opportunity to integrate socially with other young people from diverse communities and also promotes social cohesion. For years I have played the game in my back garden with a tennis ball wrapped up in electrical tape and used milk crates as stumps! It is from there where my love for the game started and encouraged me to play the sport at school and join a local women's club at Wanstead CC." Saba is now the captain at Wanstead CC since 2014 and also the Club Cricket Conference ladies team since 2013. She has also won numerous coaching awards this year from the ECB and from the Asian Cricket Awards for her work in promoting the sport amongst females at the grassroots level. She was nominated alongside some respected male coaches so to win the awards is an amazing achievement.  Saba Nasim, as I had witnessed upon my visit to her sessions, is a hard working and motivated coach who strives to inspire the girls and has even progressed some of them further to play for the local club, Wanstead CC, giving them the opportunity to play with a hard ball on an actual cricket pitch.

The scheme, as I had witnessed through the continuous success and overall enjoyment of the Redbridge Rangers team, has had an immensely positive impact in many of the local communities and continues to strive for better.

BY: Kiran K Bhangu. Bancroft's School