Match Preview: South Asian Cricket Academy

Wednesday 27th March 2024
Photography by: David Griffin

Derbyshire started a friendly three day game against the South Asian Cricket Academy (SACA) at Derby on Tuesday 26 March.

Heritage Officer David Griffin previewed the match.

This is not a first-class fixture and although there is one further friendly match later in the week against Leeds Bradford UCCE, Derbyshire’s players will doubtless be keen to get back onto grass following months indoors.

Cricket Archive officially lists this fixture as being between SACA and Derbyshire Second XI, although it is fair to assume that Derbyshire’s side will include many of the anticipated starting eleven to face Gloucestershire in the opening County Championship match on 5 April.

SACA was formed in 2022 by Tom Brown and Kabir Ali, the latter having played Test and ODI cricket for England during an extensive career which saw him play for Worcestershire, Hampshire and Lancashire.

Brown researched the subject of British Asians engaged in cricket in England and Wales and discovered that while 30% of recreational cricketers and 20% of elite pathway players were of British Asian origin, their representation in professional cricket was only 5%.

SACA’s primary objective, therefore, is to encourage more players of Asian origin into professional cricket in England and Wales. It is planned as a short-term fix, with SACA expected to be disbanded after 2026, when, it is hoped, the project will have succeeded.

SACA has a lengthy fixture list against county second elevens in 2024, with their first game of the new season being this one at Derby.

Their cricketers have already impressed within the first class game with seven earning county contracts: Jafer Chohan at Yorkshire, Zaman Akhter (Gloucestershire), Hassan Azad (Northamptonshire), Arafat Bhuiyan (Kent), Zain-ul-Hassan (Glamorgan), Kashif Ali (Worcestershire) and Andy Umeed (Somerset).

Derbyshire followers will doubtless recognise the latter two players; Umeed scored 172 not out for Somerset in the final Metro Bank Cup game at Derby last summer, hitting 6 sixes and 11 fours. It is the highest individual one day score ever made at Derby and he reached 150 in 134 balls with his last 72 runs coming from just 31 deliveries.

Kashif Ali, meanwhile, was on course to register the fastest hundred at Derby. He reached 50 off just 21 deliveries with 4 sixes and 4 fours, and it seemed inevitable that he would beat Shahid Afridi’s 42-ball ton for Hampshire in a T20 quarter final at Derby in 2017. However, he fell for 88, having faced a mere 36 balls, hitting 7 sixes and 8 fours.

A further SACA graduate has recently joined Worcestershire, although Yadvinder Singh will initially be an overseas player. He was born in India and moved to the UK in 2011 and it is expected that he will become a British passport holder by the start of the 2025 season. He has already had trials with Worcestershire, and played second eleven cricket at Northamptonshire, Somerset and Surrey.

So, although this fixture will offer Derbyshire’s players an opportunity to get some much-needed game time on grass, it is quite possible that the SACA opposition will have another potential star of the future in their ranks.

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