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A unique desi league that’s for everybody

india Updated: Sep 02, 2011 00:43 IST
Dinesh Chopra

As Ravi Bopara and Samit Patel gave finishing touches to another India defeat on Wednesday, one man at the Old Trafford leaned back with a smile.

"Two British Asians finishing off the game for England, this is what our league wanted to see." Haroon Rashid Patel started to explain how the Gujarat Metropolitan Cricket League was born in 1993. "Back in the 70s and 80s we needed the respect of the British. While they appreciated our hard work and enterprise, they never thought we'd match them in cricket or football," recalled Haroon, chairman of the league which is based in Essex. "About five or six of us got together and started the Gujarat Club. At one stage, we had 11 Patels playing for us in local tournaments and that is when we branched out. This meant opening up not only to Gujaratis or Asians but anybody who was interested in cricket."

The league got registered in 1993 and got affiliation of the Essex County Cricket Board and England and Wales Cricket Board in 1999. The affiliation was a recognition, but something more relevant emerged. "In the third year of inception we realised that the Asian youth was not taking to drugs and there was peace in households," said Inayat Kothia, secretary of the league.

A query to the Essex County Council confirmed this. "We are impressed by the constructive and pro-active role of ethnic communities in the area. We'd like to believe that sports played a role in that with the Gujarati Metropolitan Cricket League playing its part."

At the moment, about 25 clubs form the league and vie for top honours in a 40 overs-a-side format besides the trendy T20.

A few clubs have a worry though. It is mandatory for a club to be affiliated to the ECB to have a bar in its clubhouse, but some clubs run by Muslims didn't want to comply. "We have taken the matter to the Essex County Board and are hopeful of a solution. For the moment, we have advised these clubs to have a bar but they may not serve alcohol," said Inayat.

Haroon rattled off the big names who have been associated with the league. "Yusuf Pathan has played here, Ravi Bopara has been our patron, Shoaib Akhtar, Salim Elahi, and Mohammed Yousuf have been here," he recalled.