Wednesday, May 22, 2024

ECB: Connecting communities through the “Taste of Cricket”

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Photo Credit: ECB

ECB’s Chief Communications Officer, Kate Miller, dives into the powerful link between cricket and food and explains how this is being brought to life in the new Taste of Cricket initiative.

There’s no doubt that cricket and food share a profound connection.“Food has become an integral part of cricket…not only for bringing communities together but it’s also a wonderful way for people to appreciate the flavours in our cooking and for us to learn the spices or ingredients in theirs. We then see that understanding and diversity reflected on the pitch. Cricket and food go hand in hand.”  Here, Omar Khan, Director at Al Faisal’s, a Kashmiri restaurant in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham, eloquently captures the essence of this special union.

With a legacy spanning three generations, Al Faisal’s is more than just a restaurant—it’s a cornerstone of the community. It has a deep connection with cricket, hosting the Al Faisal’s Cricket League in which restaurants and their staff come together, not just to play, but to share in the joy of food. It’s a blend of competition and culinary exploration, where every match is accompanied by a delicious feast.

As all lovers of the game will know, cricket isn’t just about what happens on the pitch; it’s also about the vibrant culinary culture that surrounds it. From the aroma of street food wafting through stadium corridors to the historic cricket tea in all its guises, food is an integral part of the experience.

In fact, cricket is one of the only sports to officially pause play for ‘tea’ – a moment cherished by players and spectators alike. Whether it’s the sizzle of spicy kebabs, the comforting warmth of a cuppa, the sugar hit from a Welsh cake, or the smell of a jerk BBQ wafting over to neighbouring streets – clubs across England, Wales and beyond boast their own culinary traditions that make up the diverse fabric of our sport.

Just as cricket brings people together, food serves as a unifying force, fostering camaraderie and creating lasting memories that transcend communities. That’s why I’m so excited for the launch of our new Raising The Game campaign – Taste of Cricket – this summer.

This initiative will not only celebrate the cherished tradition of match teas in cricket culture but also showcase the inspirational and diverse stories behind the beloved recipes. The tea ladies and men who give up their weekends to ensure the players have enough energy; refugees and asylum seekers who cook and share their favourite recipes from back home with their clubmates; and the club in Cardiff whose tea consists of Welsh lamb chops with masala chips – a nod to the many cultures they’re proud to welcome through the clubhouse.

Throughout July, these stories and recipes will come to life as recreational clubs across England and Wales play host to ‘cricket tea’ events, each club boasting its own inspiring story of driving inclusion and diversity within its community.

This will culminate in the launch of a Taste of Cricket cookbook, available to purchase, that promises to ignite culinary creativity. Featuring an array of beloved classics and innovative twists on famous cricket tea recipes, this cookbook will be a culinary journey like no other. With recipe contributions from cricket and foodie royalty, an array of famous fans and dedicated volunteers from the grassroots, it will showcase the rich tapestry of flavours and stories that make cricket more than just a sport—it’s a celebration of community and belonging.

This is the sentiment we looked to harness two years ago when Raising The Game was launched in collaboration with the cricket network. Raising the Game was, and still is, a rallying cry fuelled by a manifesto for change. Since then, the platform has illuminated the hardworking efforts driving progress within cricket, amplified unheard voices, and spotlighted champions of change, as well as provided resources to empower us all to do better.

But our mission doesn’t stop there. Together with the whole cricket network, we want to take the power of Raising The Game to new audiences through the universal language of food.

Taste of Cricket isn’t just about what’s on the plate; it’s about what cricket stands for: inclusivity, unity and understanding. It’s a reminder that regardless of background, cricket should always be a game that welcomes all. Whether you eat a kosher, halal or vegetarian diet – and anything in between – there’s a place for you in cricket.

So, what is Omar’s favourite cricket tea? It’s a curry, vegetable biryani, naan bread and mango lassi. One of the many recipes I’ll be trying myself this summer!

Keep an eye on ECB’s website and social channels for more information about Taste of Cricket.

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