Inclusive cricket is finding a space to thrive
Hot English summer days are a rarity. Every year there are one or two but they are punctuated either side by rain, cool breezes or clouds. Coming from Australia the English summer has always been pleasant but not hot, not the kind of heat that leaves you sucking hard to catch your breath when out on the cricket field. Sunday 13th June was, though, one of those hot days. Having postponed the original date due to rain being able to play this historic match for LGBTQ+ cricket in brilliant sunshine was a perfect outcome. Graces Cricket Club, our opponents, arrived eary, eager to help set up the ground, take part in interviews and soak up the atmosphere.
The game was a comptitive and energetic, despite the sapping humid heat. The crowds boisterous enthusiasm kept all players entertained and on their toes. The Unicorns cheer squad in the far corner of the ground was amazing. Many of them were unknown to the playing group but they were friends and potential new members by the end of the day.
Although we didn’t win the match we all celebrated and loved the occasion. Graces were amazing opponents and we look forward to clashing with them next year, at their place, as we try and win the Spirit of Inclusive Cricket Trophy. For those cricket enthusiasts who want to watch the game (in full or in part), it can be seen here, with full commentary:
But Sunday wasn’t really about the result.
Sunday was about the wider cricket family, the LGBTQ+ community and opening up the game to more people, giving them a chance to play and enjoy cricket when, for many, perhaps they have not been able to in the past.
For me, and the Unicorns, the game was an opportunity to put our ethos into practice. We are a club that strives to be “a place where all LGBTQ+ people and their allies can come to play cricket, be themselves and socialise with others from the community. We encourage everyone to be themselves, free of judgement, giving all the opportunity to be part of a cricketing family. Unicorns is a community where you will find humour, solidarity, support, and enjoy cricket.” I am proud that we lived this ethos as we welcomed the community, our opponents and played cricket.
The match, and all that went with it, has demonstrated beyond any doubt, that there is an appetite to play and support cricket amongst the LGBTQ+ community. We, along with Graces and other emerging clubs in Bath, Leeds and Manchester, are passionate about building cultures and clubs that increase participation in this great sport. There is so much that can be done. Work at the national and county levels is important but to make the real difference this needs to be done in conjunction with opening up the recreational and grassroots game to more people. Club cricket is where friendships and bonds are formed, where you express the real heartache and joy that goes with the game and it is where you can make your own stamp on the game, creating memories that live forever.
Making cricket as inclusive as possible is what we are about at the Unicorns. After Sunday’s match I realised that we are only at the begining of this journey. We have come a long way and achieved so much.
We can do more though and that is my driver as I look to the future.
Let us all continue to change the narrative within and around cricket, helping to welcome more people to it. Doing this will benefit everyone and the sport as a whole. But most importantly it provides a home to LGBTQ+ people who want to be part of this great game.