A CRICKETING boss has praised a Bradford project for helping get more people from inner city areas involved in the sport.

A project to make Park Avenue a cricketing hub began in 2017, and last year alone over 10,000 people used the grounds.

In an essay discussing how the sport can thrive in Yorkshire in the coming years, Mark Arthur, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Country Cricket Club, singled out Park Avenue as being a project that is bringing cricket to more communities.

The regeneration of the site began in 2017, when the multi million pound scheme was opened by Joe Root and England colleagues Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, David Willey and Moeen Ali.

It included turf pitches and a non-turf pitch on the square, a new digital scoreboard, eight non-turf cricket nets, a groundsman’s facility and changing rooms, with plans for further facilities in the future.

Yesterday Policy Yorkshire, a think tank made up of prominent figures in the county, released a collection of essays titled 2030 Vision - Where Should Yorkshire be in Ten Years’ Time?

Included in the essays is the piece by Mr Arthur, who discusses how sport, and cricket in particular, can have a “positive effect on improving social cohesion.” He says it will be important for the sport to be inclusive, including attracting players from more deprived, inner city areas.

He said: “A considerable amount of research has been conducted to understand how barriers in participation are broken down.

“Two big obstacles that the South Asian community face are facilities to play in and the cost of cricket equipment.

“To make the sport more accessible, cricket is being taken into the heart of these communities. Urban Cricket Centres are being introduced throughout the region to ensure that a wider and more diverse audience are picking up bats and balls.

“The action plan’s legacy will truly be understood in the coming years when the vast amount of qualitative feedback is compiled.”

He then goes on to praise the work at Park Avenue, and how it is fast becoming a hub for inner city cricket.

“One ongoing project that is already seeing significant results is the regeneration of Park Avenue, Bradford.

“This venue is steeped in cricketing history after previously hosting 306 First Class matches, the first being played in 1881.

“What makes this venue so special is not just its considerable history, but its location in the heart of a large British-Asian community.

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“In 2017, England Captain Joe Root, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, all key players who would go onto inspire England to World Cup victory, opened phase one of the regeneration, which includes new cricket nets and changing facilities.

“Since the nets were opened, men and women of all ages have participated. Park Avenue welcomed just under 10,000 participants to its nets and ground in 2019, an uplift of 42 per cent on the previous year.”

He adds: “By 2030, sport will have played a significant role in improving social cohesion within our region and may well help to combat health priorities, such as childhood obesity and diabetes.”

One new group that has made the most of the facilities is the Park Avenue Ladies Cricket Club, which was set up last year.

The club has over 60 members, and although the Coronavirus pandemic halted the club’s training, women are still regularly getting in touch to ask to join.

The club was set up to get more women involved in the sport, especially women of a South Asian background.

Councillor Vanda Greenwood (Lab, Windhill and Wrose) is also the club’s treasurer. She said: “The location of Park Avenue is perfect for the women we are trying to attract to the club. There is a big South Asian community in the city, so this site is ideal. We’re very lucky to have a facility like this here. it is probably one of the best cricket grounds in Bradford, and I know they are spending more money on it to bring it up to County Cricket standard.”

Shivanie Patel from the club, added: “It is a really busy facility, you have book the nets, which is good because it shows how popular it is. You’ll see kids come for a knock about with their bat and ball.”