I never for the life of me could understand how anybody could get excited about cricket. It had to be the most boring and slow game ever, and yet my friends in Australia would sit glued to their TV sets for hours and days just to watch one match from start to finish, and the points could reach thousands! That, to me, was insane.
Now with street cricket, it's a whole new ball game and I really think I could get excited about this new form of cricket. It really wakes up my little boy's heart and makes me want to get out there bat the ball or bowl or whatever--just as long as it is fast and fun, not to mention all the new friends I could make!
'In the sports hall at Birmingham’s Joseph Chamberlain Health & Fitness Centre, a one-day cricket tournament with a difference is under way.
'Small boys bounce excitedly in front of plastic stumps and jostle at the doors to get a look at the action; older ones saunter coolly to the crease, before unleashing ferocious shots that ricochet off the walls, to roars of approval from teammates.
'There’s no dress code here: players sport a happy mix of football shorts, tracksuits, baseball caps on backwards, cricket shirts and acid-bright trainers. Competition is certainly in the air, but nerves not so much. The overwhelming sense is one of fun.
'This is tape-ball cricket, a fast, frenetic and accessible version of the game, that does away with the need for expansive green spaces, pricey equipment, such as pads and helmets, and long hours waiting for a turn to bat or bowl.
'“It’s more intense,” says Kennard, 15, from Leicester – and that makes it more enjoyable. “You get pressure built up from the start of the game.”
'Tape-ball cricket takes its name from the tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape that it’s played with – the tape makes it behave more like a cricket ball, but without the potential for bruising.
'Teams in this Midlands-wide tournament come from some of the 154 community cricket clubs run by the charity Chance to Shine’s street cricket programme in deprived communities across England. Professionally coached, they play in enclosed spaces, such as leisure centres and fenced-in areas in local parks and estates, with rules adapted to fit the settings: balls that hit the back or side walls score one run, while hitting the far wall earns you a four – or a six if it’s high enough. Hit the ceiling – or get caught off the wall – and you’re out.
'Bilal and Ihtisham, both 14 and from Nottingham, are avid new recruits, jiggling in their seats and talking over each other in their eagerness to explain their enthusiasm. “Street cricket gives the game a bit more suspense,” Bilal says. “It makes it more alive.”
'Ihtisham agrees: “More people get to bat and more people get to bowl.” And then there’s the social side: “Since I started this two months ago, I’ve made five new friends,” he says.'