ECB's tape ball cricket receives backing from England cricketers

From the streets of Karachi, tape ball cricket makes it to English heartlands

By Imran Munawar/Saima Haroon
April 21, 2024
Heather Knight, Adil Rashid and Dawid Malan talk to Geo News. - Author

BIRMINGHAM: England cricketing stars have welcomed the ECB’s decision to hold a nationwide tape ball cricket tournament, a form of cricket which originated in the streets of Karachi, Pakistan in the 60s.

The casual form of cricket first spread to other towns and cities of Pakistan and then thanks to the Pakistani diaspora community made it to other parts of the world and is now played by millions around the globe.

Though tape ball cricket has been played in England for many years as a recreational sport by British Pakistanis and other South Asian communities and like Pakistan, competitions of tape ball cricket are organised throughout the UK especially on summer weekends. But this is the first time the format has got some sort of official recognition.

The announcement by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) was made in Birmingham during a showcase tape ball cricket event full of vibrant music, food and entertainment. A former gas factory in Birmingham’s Digbeth area was transformed to mark the event and also to celebrate the culture of Pakistan and South Asia.

England cricket stars Heather Knight, Adil Rashid and Dawid Malan graced the occasion with their presence and enjoyed watching teams of young girls and boys from “chance to shine” street cricket program playing Tape Ball cricket. The trio also participated in a showcase match which also featured members of England’s physical disability team, renowned comedian and broadcaster Atif Nawaz, comedian Shazia Mirza, both of Pakistani origin, and other celebrities from the entertainment industry were part of their teams.

Speaking exclusively to Geo News - Heather Knight, Adil Rashid and Dawid Malan described it as a step forward in the right direction. Tape ball cricket is a format which is very fluid where rules are made according to the situation, a place where it’s played and several players participating and with no expensive pieces of cricket kit like pads, gloves, helmets etc required. All you need is a tennis ball, a roll of electrical tape to wrap around the ball, a bat and some sort of space for the pitch to play on.

Knight, Rashid and Malan all three agreed that this will make the game more accessible to those who can’t afford to bear the expenses of hard ball cricket and will prove to be more inclusive for both male and female cricket enthusiasts. It’s a format which can be enjoyed by people of all ages without any gender restrictions.

England women's cricket team captain Heather Knight OBE told Geo News that she had a testing time in the middle facing the ball as she played tape ball cricket for the first time.

“It’s been a great event and real fun with lots of girls here playing from South Asian backgrounds as well which is really cool and some real talent in there as well. It is really an accessible format so hopefully, lots more people can get involved in it which can lead to playing more cricket in the future”.

The 2017 Women's World Cup winning captain was glad to see the number of girls turning up for the event and hoped that this format will bring more girls towards cricket.

“Hopefully more girls will be involved as it resonates with them and they feel like they can get involved in it and be included. It's obviously a game that was invented on the streets so it's a game that can be played anywhere. I think it's really important to be accessible as a sport. They girls here enjoyed it today and there are lots more out there who want to take up the sport and enjoy themselves and have fun”.

Leg spinner Adil Rashid revealed he also played tape ball cricket in his early days of cricket.

“Even I’ve played tape ball cricket when I was very young but this is the way forward in the sense of getting people into cricket, especially from the areas of Birmingham, Bradford where there's a lot of young Asians coming through who enjoys playing cricket, who like the game of cricket but just can’t play cricket with hard ball.

Lauding the efforts by ECB to make the game more accessible for all the communities Adil Rashid thinks that this will provide equal opportunities to both male and female cricketers.

“The boys , the girls they love playing it, enjoy playing it. It’s so easy to play, you can play anywhere, any place and enjoy with your friends. ECB have done a magnificent job, this is officially a tournament now, a recognised tournament. It’s here to get all the kids involved who haven't played cricket before, people who never thought of playing cricket. It's accessible to all kinds of people from all ages and we were here today to celebrate that”.

Explosive English opening batter Dawid Plan told Geo News that this format will help to provide equal opportunities to all who want to enjoy cricket.

“Sports is all about getting the opportunity and sometimes cricket can be quite hard to get the opportunity with all the equipment costs and facilities that you need. So to be able to play a different form of cricket that is not too dissimilar. All you need to have a bat and a ball and you can pretty much play it everywhere and fantastic from an opportunity point of view for young players”.

Dawid Malan hopes that this will drive cricket up and push attendance in international matches.

“So many people playing is fantastic for the game and if tape ball can bring more players into the game and have a bigger pool of players playing and pushing for county cricket and international cricket for England that would be fantastic”.

The event also marked the start of England’s home international season and the build up to the England Women’s and Men’s joint upcoming series against Pakistan in May, which kicks off with the Women’s T20I between Pakistan and England at Edgbaston stadium on 11 May 2024.

Bukhtawar Mir, Vice consul at the Pakistan consulate in Birmingham who was also present at the event lauded ECB’s efforts and told Geo that these activities will help to engage the local Pakistani community, especially the girls.

“Tape ball cricket is a format which is extremely prevalent to and played everywhere in Pakistan. It’s heartening to see that now ECB has acknowledged its potential and launched it as a tournament to kick start the momentum around Pakistan Men’s and Women’s fixture against host England in May. Birmingham is home to a huge Pakistani community and the youth are very excited particularly young girls who are very excited about the upcoming women’s game at Edgbaston”.