A PHOTOGRAPHIC exhibition celebrating the history of Asian cricket across Bradford and the rest of Yorkshire has gone on display at Headingley.

The AYA Foundation, a community organisation specialising in minority heritage, arts, and culture, was awarded £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to record interviews and collect memorabilia for its ‘From Parks to Pavilions’ project, focusing on the founders of one of the oldest Asian-led cricket leagues in Britain, the Bradford-based Quaid-e Azam Sunday Cricket League.

The display contains more than 30 photographs taken by cricket enthusiast Mohanlal Mistry, detailing back-street forms of the game being played in Bradford and elsewhere across the county.

It was officially unveiled last week at the Yorkshire Cricket Museum at Headingley to coincide with the one-day international match between England and Pakistan.

More than 20 young people from across the region have helped in producing a documentary to accompany the exhibition, taking part in trips to museums and cricketing archives including those at Lords.

The project has also been supported by the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), and Bradford Local Studies Libraries.

Mobeen Butt, the project lead and curator of the exhibition, said current players such as Bradford-born Adil Rashid, of Yorkshire and England, owed part of their success to early Asian migrants who played in local parks and set up teams and leagues more than four decades ago.

“The photographs perfectly capture how young Asians played cricket in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s,” he said.

“They didn’t play on cricket grounds, in practice nets, or even in parks, they played wherever they could, and that meant playing in alleyways, car parks, and waste grounds.

“They played with milk crates, traffic cones, and crisp boxes for wickets, and would carve out a bat from pieces of broken floor board or fence.”

Maria Hussain, one of the young people involved in the project, said: “My dad plays cricket, he’s been playing ever since I can remember, probably before I was born.

“He plays for a club, and the ground he plays on is really nice and green, and well-kept.

“The young people in the photos played in very dirty and sometimes dangerous conditions, they played in the streets.

“This exhibition is only a small part of our project, we’ve also been to visit archives and museums.

“We’ve been to Lords, and we’ve been taught how to conduct oral history interviews and been on photography workshops.

“We will be producing a radio and video documentary and putting everything on YouTube for everyone to see.”

Mark Arthur, the chief executive of Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC), described the Quaid-e Azam League as being a strong and well-respected league not just in Yorkshire, but nationally.

He was present at the unveiling of the exhibition alongside Lord Patel of Bradford, the director of the ECB.

“With the Quaid-e Azam League continuing to go from strength to strength, and players such as Adil Rashid and Azeem Rafiq both playing in the First XI, Asian cricket has and will continue to play a major part in the rich history and heritage of Yorkshire County Cricket Club,” said Mr Arthur.

“An exhibition celebrating the history of Asian cricket in Yorkshire is long overdue, and we were delighted to help launch it here at Headingley Cricket Ground.

“There is a real appetite for cricket in local Asian communities, as was demonstrated at the fourth one-day international when Pakistan supporters came in their droves and created such a vibrant atmosphere.

“Credit must go to Mobeen Butt and his team for beginning the arduous task of collating all the material, and I would encourage all cricketing enthusiasts to contribute or take a look as it tours West Yorkshire in the coming weeks.”

Lord Patel added: “We often hear people say that for Asians cricket is a religion, and playing the game is in our blood, an inherent part of who we are.

“I believe that this exhibition captures that sentiment perfectly.

“For me personally, it brought back many memories of my childhood experiences of playing this great game.

“It is so important that we do not forget this rich history, learn from it, understand it, build on it and all move forward, not just in Yorkshire but around the country.”

Fiona Spiers, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “South Asian communities have contributed to cricket across the UK for many years, and we were delighted to fund this fascinating project looking back at the grassroots origins of so many successful players.

“We were particularly pleased to see young people getting the opportunity to explore an area of their community’s heritage with particular relevance to them.”

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s executive member for environment, sport, and culture, added: “It is important to record the rich history of our South Asian communities participating in one of our great national sports.

“Cricket is still close to the hearts of local people and is a significant factor in community cohesion.

“We were pleased to see the Heritage Lottery Fund get behind this, as we have an enormous passion for sport across the Yorkshire region and it is a great unifier.”

Increasing levels of cricket participation among Asian communities is one of the primary aims of the £5.5 million redevelopment currently taking place at the historic Park Avenue cricket ground in Bradford, a partnership between the council, YCCC, and the ECB.

As part of work funded by Sport England, the ECB targeted Bradford as one of five cities in which to engage more closely with South-Asian communities, with an initial focus of increasing the number of pitches available for grass-roots community use catered for via the provision of eight practice wickets and a new pavilion at the site.

The ‘From Parks to Pavilions’ exhibition is set to go on tour across numerous venues, including libraries in Bradford, over the coming months.

To keep updated with the project, visit www.fromparkstopavilions.org.uk.