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Catching On

15th Rhagfyr 2020

Shahidul Alam Ratan, Capital Kids Cricket, London (known as Ratan)

The Kia Shahidul Alam Ratan Oval

Ratan at the Oval

London-based charity, Capital Kids Cricket, aims to help disadvantaged children and young people living in the most deprived areas of the city.

Over lockdown, their CEO Shahidul Alam Ratan, known simply as Ratan, brought in virtual sessions that allowed kids to stay active at home and keep in touch with each other socially.

The project is just one of the many inspiring grassroots organisations that receive support from the £30m raised for good causes by National Lottery players every week.

Ratan says: “As soon as we found out about going into lockdown, I had a call with our coaches and said we must make sure we keep things going. We have three or four clubs we look after and we told our coaches to help set up activities within a home environment showing the kids what they could do to practice batting, bowling and fielding within their home – in their living rooms, small backyards or alleyways between houses. We created lots of activities to try and sent them out in a WhatsApp group.

“After two weeks, we thought they were getting bored so decided to introduce a challenging and competitive element. It was very simple challenges like keepy-uppies with the bat and ball, seeing how many times they could keep the ball up in the air, or juggling with two or three cricket balls.”

At first the group were sharing videos and competing with each other, so Ratan decided to get them to challenge other groups: “It was very interesting – parents and siblings started getting involved! We included all the other clubs we knew – in the first week we had about 10 different clubs - then we opened it up and had clubs from Yorkshire and Sussex taking part. We have extended invitations to known clubs out of the UK and we had clubs from India, Singapore, California and Lebanon in the refugee camp joining.

“That competition helped us establish a connection with clubs around the world, so we wanted to do something simple to connect with those clubs and even more countries and people and we came up with the idea of a simple throwing and catching of a cricket ball with all these clubs from around the world.

“Someone would record me, catching a ball and we would give out a small message to “stick together and beat Covid-19” before nominating the next catcher. We had clubs from California and then, in Australia, former England ODI captain Adam Hollioake, got involved as he was on the Gold Coast, former England player Alex Tudor also joined. Then we had clubs in South Africa, Kenya, in the Middle East, Holland, Italy, Sweden, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan even a Chinese national team player. We ended with a celebration on Zoom for everyone who had taken part.”

Ratan adds:” Our whole team was very happy on the last day of the global ball passing challenge with the celebration. It felt so good to have done something to bring people together during this difficult time. It was something we as a group built very well. We did a lot of challenges with the refugee camp in Lebanon. In 2018, we introduced cricket to the Syrian refugee camp. I went twice, first to introduce the game and then to teach the teachers on how to coach the game. We have nearly 300 kids who play cricket on a regular basis in the camp.”

Ratan will be celebrated this week as The Kia Oval is renamed in is honour The Kia Shahidul Alam Ratan Oval – the dedication is in celebration of his work supporting the most vulnerable in communities during the coronavirus crisis.

He says renaming will be a huge honour, not only here in the UK, but in the wider cricketing world.

“It is brilliant news and it means a lot,” Ratan says. “I hope it may bring some light to the charity and people like me who want to make a change, who want to go the extra mile to help people who need it. I must thank Capital kids Cricket for giving me the opportunity to come over here and work in this environment and also The National Lottery for running this campaign.

“The National Lottery are a very generous funder and we are very grateful for their help. We are a delivery charity – if the National Lottery gives us a grant for £10,000, the vast majority of that goes back to the grassroots as we don’t have any sub-contractors.”