Somerset Cricket Foundation Profile: Mustafa Shaikh

Somerset Cricket Foundation is committed to positively impacting the lives of people across the County through cricket.

Somerset County Cricket Club are proud to play a role in helping the Foundation to achieve that goal.

With this in mind, we felt it was important to shine the spotlight of the staff at SCF who do such a great job of delivering the game in so many varied ways across the region. Over the next few months, we will be introducing you to the people who make the Foundation such an integral element within the game.

Today we are focusing on Community Activation Officer, Mustafa Shaikh.

Somerset Cricket Foundation have a key role to play when it comes to ensuring that cricket is a game for everyone.

SCCC and SCF worked hand in hand to create a comprehensive Equity, Diversity and Inclusion strategy and action plan to compliment the ECB’s actions to improve the ED&I landscape across cricket communities, and that is where the Community Activation Officer comes into his own.

Mustafa Shaikh is no stranger to the Somerset Cricket Family and has a long-standing affiliation with the sport and the county dating back to the early 1980s.

He recently returned to the region to take on his new role, and we sat down with him to discuss the importance of the position.

“The role is constantly evolving but fundamentally I am looking to drive forward our vision of using cricket as a medium to impact positively on the lives of people in the Somerset community and increase participation and inclusivity,” he explained. “Amongst other things, I’ve been working on taking a lead in the development of the walking cricket across the county. We currently have seven indoor hubs and are looking to get another going in the Wells area shortly. We are encouraging cricket clubs to follow the lead of Lansdown Cricket Club in to setting up more Club Hubs, which is essentially outdoor walking cricket in a club setting. We are about to launch a hub at Huntspill and District CC in the Highbridge area. We have over one hundred active walking cricketers (aged 50+) enjoying being active and socialising across the county at hubs which are run by some amazing and committed volunteers that we support through the Somerset Cricket Foundation.”

One of his other main priorities has been to develop connections with the diverse communities across the county as part of the wider Somerset EDI strategy. The main driver here is to develop meaningful partnerships with various stakeholders in the community and evolve exciting projects which develop and share our vision.

“Last year we got the opportunity to work with displaced people, the majority of whom were from Afghanistan, and we were able to develop the pioneering “Maqbul” (meaning beautiful and accepted) project in Weston-super-Mare and North Petherton areas,” he explained. “It was a cricket project involving partnership working with Voluntary Action North Somerset, CHARIS Refugees, Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership and engaging support from North Petherton and Weston-super-Mare Cricket Clubs for training and match play venues. We were able to provide cricket coaching and social games thus widening our network to involve other diverse cricketing groups such as the Weston Warriors. They’re from a well-established South Indian Asian community who work primarily in the health sector and IT, but they don’t play any formal league cricket and prefer softball and tape ball cricket. One thing led to another, and we got connected for social games with Taunton Indians Cricket Club (Curry Rivel), King’s College, Taunton, and the Richard Huish Academy. The group also took in a visit to the Somerset Cricket Museum and watched a floodlit Vitality Blast game at the Cooper Associates County Ground. They also celebrated Eid with a special lunch in the Marcus Trescothick Pavilion. It was an inspiring initiative, impacting on the participants and us at the Cricket Foundation.”

“Out of our involvement with the “Maqbul” project came requests from women within those communities, so recently we linked up with Diversity Voice Charity based in Bridgwater, the Somerset Sports and Activity Partnership and Voluntary Action North Somerset to run the “Omaid” (Hope) project which gives them the opportunity to participate in cricket. The project is currently running in North Petherton. We are offering some softball coaching to the women and for the children. The group recently enjoyed a visit to the Indoor Cricket Centre at the CACG and a tour of the Somerset Cricket Museum. The Omaid women recently celebrated Eid by cooking and serving up a wonderful and delicious feast to mark the end of Ramadan. This was attended by over fifty guests followed by a family game of cricket. Our overall aim for this group is to help them participate in some softball women’s matches with local clubs and for the children to join in some All Stars and Dynamos programmes.

“Working with CHARIS Refugees, Somerset Sports and Activity Partnership and King’s College we have been able to provide some cricket activities for Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers in the evenings as a recreational programme. Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) are children and young people who are seeking asylum in the UK but who have been separated from their parents or carers. While their claim is processed, they are cared for by a local authority. We are exploring ideas to run a similar event in Weston-super-Mare.”

“We have also been able to connect with the Somerset Diverse Communities network who organise and coordinate a range of “Somerset Together” Multicultural events across the county. Last year in Yeovil at Westlands (Yeovil Cricket Club) we ran a keenly contested “tape ball” event between two strong Bangladeshi community teams aptly named the Yeovil Titans and Tigers.

“We are also looking at doing some work with Windrush and we’ve had several meetings with Susann Savidge, Chair of the Somerset African Caribbean Network, to discuss how we can all work together to celebrate and raise awareness of Windrush. It is 76 years since the HMT Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury, Essex, carrying passengers from the Caribbean to the UK. HMT Empire Windrush became a symbol of a wider mass-migration movement. Commemoration events have been held on 22 June every year since 2018 across the country. Somerset and the South West have a rich history and connection with people from the Caribbean. We are planning a series of events during 2024 to remember and reawaken the legacy. It links quite well with the County Club who have had the likes of Viv Richards and Joel Garner. So, watch this space!

“It’s key that we are interacting with diverse communities and encouraging people to get involved with their local cricket clubs because there’s a network there that people aren’t necessarily aware of.

“It’s exciting to be able to have a positive impact on local communities. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and it’s a role I’m really relishing. We want to hear from people in the community who are looking for support to get into cricket. We want to hear from people who are already involved with the game as well to help get them involved in umpiring or coaching. We want to hear from clubs who want to set up programmes and events that can make a difference to people’s wellbeing.”

Mus also talked about his links to the region.

“Cricket has always been in my blood, and I came to Somerset in 1983 to teach. Since then, I’ve been involved at Taunton Deane Cricket Club and Taunton Cricket Club. I’ve been involved with the County Age Groups and done a lot of coaching as well as some umpiring.”

Why is the role so important?

“The goal is to be the catalyst that connects local communities with the Somerset Cricket Foundation and the County Club. Cricket is so important because of the social aspect as well as the active and health element.

“To be able to make inroads into engaging with our communities and inspiring them through cricket is very special.”