A gleaming symbol of grass-roots diversity, Shruti is the City Programme manager for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). The raring role model directs a national engagement team, whose job it is to recruit 2,000 South Asian women into strong “activator” roles, similar to her own.
These ladies will lead the ECB’s drive to enhance entry-level cricket through their widespread youthful sports programme: All Stars Cricket. “We are trying new and innovative ways to take cricket to the children at the heart of cities,” Shruti elaborated, “to inspire the next generation to take up the game.” Indeed, with the England cricket team jubilantly winning the World Cup this year, there is no better time to “increase interest in the game with more people playing, and following our great sport,” as Shruti stated. “Anecdotally,” she added, “I have seen more different types of people, both male and female, and varying ethnicities, pick up a bat and ball than ever before. There is no doubt that this summer has been incredible for cricket, and this autumn should only get better.”
Shruti’s work forms part of the ECB’s impressive South Asian Action plan, started recently in 2018: “this aims to engage South Asian communities in every level of the sport.” As well as championing multiculturalism and women in the sport, the ECB is improving local access to the traditional game, boosting social accessibility at the institutional foundation. “We want to provide quality cricket facilities in inner-city areas,” Shruti told Asian Voice. Earlier this year, Leyton Cricket Ground benefitted from a joint regeneration project, where the ECB collaborated with the local Waltham Forest Council to transform the area into a ‘world-class cricket hub’ which would encourage neighbouring residents to participate on the same turf as the place of international matches. The creativity of the inclusive initiative extends to the practical range of ways in which the sport can be played, and the complementary facilities on site. This includes All Stars, Women’s Soft Ball and Tape Ball Cricket, and a real food hub, boasting both a restaurant and cafe, as well as growing beds ‘allowing local residents to cultivate food which will then be sold as part at a regular food market selling local produce on-site.’
Shruti commented: “the Urban Centres are a key part of our South Asian Action Plan, especially committed to engaging local South Asian communities and beyond. Cricket is, after all, a game that the Indian diaspora loves.” Indeed, with Shruti overseeing her project across seven core cities, the ECB have chosen to invest in areas that have a larger South-Asian population. Shruti also told us more specifically of the increasing ambition she’s seen among young South-Asian women under her guidance as the city programme manager: “ECB provide the training, support and kit they need to become an activator, coaching youngsters in cricket between the ages of five and eight. It doesn't stop there either: once an activator, we will support these women’s ongoing development, be it in or outside of cricket. As a result, I’ve seen young South-Asian women not only wanting to teach, but also become umpires and scorers for the game.”
Stimulating interest in the sport interpersonally then, this can only mean more diversity at international levels. “There are so many skills you can gain from cricket. The biggest ones that I've seen with the women we have worked with are confidence, team cohesion and just having the opportunity to be themselves.” And so, at the beating heart of an organisation which symbolises sentimental English pride, Shruti’s achievements not only reflect great representational progress, but at once the sport’s promising modern-day stand. Once hailed as an exclusive ‘Gentleman’s Game’, it now emerges principled and democratic: not only opened to the talents of the wider public, but actively driving cohesion within the nation too. “Cricket has the power to bring everyone together,” Shruti affably concluded. “That’s what grabs me most about it. Regardless of age, gender and, ethnicity, there is something for everyone within the game - I love it.”
Being appointed as the City Programme manager has been a big stride in professional diversity itself. What do you personally hope to do in the role?
It is a phenomenal opportunity and I can't thank ECB enough for putting me in this position. As the City programme manager, I have a ambition, responsibility and hope to show the community that females from a south Asian background can be successful in sport and beyond. I also want to fly the flag for diversity, as we know it's a huge strength for any team or organisation.
You are a manager, but had you ever hoped to become a professional cricketer yourself?
It would have been so great to be the next Isa Guha and I would have loved to play a sport that I love so much, however, I am incredibly lucky to be leading a project which keeps me close to the game and able to inspire people through cricket.
What has been a big highlight during your time as City Programme Manager?
Seeing a range of women from as young as 16 up to 60+ step up and lead an All Star Cricket session has been amazing. To see the women, grow in confidence, empower one another and form friendships both locally and nationally has been so great to witness and I hope it continues.
“The Urban Centres are a key part of our South Asian Action Plan, especially committed to engaging local South Asian communities and beyond.”