YORKSHIRE’S leading cricket official has praised a new Bradford-based league for the staggering achievement of flourishing during the pandemic.

The Quaid-e-Azam Premier League could hardly have timed its inauguration more badly, being launched at the Kashmiri Aroma Restaurant in Frizinghall on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

A day later, England went into its first lockdown.

However, despite that the league had 24 clubs in its shortened first season, and added six more in the campaign just ended.

Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s chief executive officer Mark Arthur, speaking at the league’s first annual dinner and prize presentation at the Aagrah Midpoint in Thornbury, called that growth “absolutely amazing”.

He said: “What you guys have achieved in two years when we have undergone the most terrible thing as a nation, you have not only formed a cricket league, but have 30 member clubs, of whom a lot are constituted.

“That is absolutely amazing.”

Arthur, impressed by how high the Quaid-e-Azam League have set their bar, added: “Cricket is on the up and we have more boys and girls being encouraged to play cricket.

“Cricket is going to be a boom sport in the next 10 years.”

However, Arthur did flag up two worrying trends.

He said: “We have a dire shortage of officials, and if we don’t have officials, we don’t have a game.

“People of my age should be taking up scoring or umpiring. For example, I score for my local club when I am not involved with Yorkshire.

“People ask me why I do that for my humble club when I am chief executive officer for Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and the answer is to put something back into the game.

“Secondly, if more girls and women play cricket then the facilities are going to be more stretched, so we need more hybrid pitches so that wickets can be used for a longer period of time.

“Maybe clubs could buddy up with each other to help out. Allow people to use your facilities by opening up communication streams, and don’t let local councils build on grass (sports pitches). Keep it for cricket and keep it for sport.”

League chairman Basharat Hussain said: “It has been a very difficult two years and we should remember our loved ones that we have lost in the last 18 months.

“But it is important to remember as a new league, including the Dewsbury & District League, where we have come from and what are our core values – that we have something to aim for.

“We are an example for other leagues to follow. We have 30 clubs and we have two more applications to join us and one more to join the affiliated Dewsbury & District League.

“It is important to have ties with our community and to protect the integrity of cricket.

“We started with 24 clubs in 2020 and we have 30 now and clearly we want to keep growing and to keep our communities engaged.

“We have increased our registered players by 51 per cent from 1150 to something like 1800, and that shows that we are doing something right.

“It is also important to have partnerships and to have a diversity of players within the league.

“Eight clubs have now been consolidated (have a constitution) and we want club committees to be increased by three or four members.

“Now we are having our first elections to replace the interim committee who have run the league for 18 months, and a constitution has been proposed.

“Thanks to the committee of both leagues, to the umpires, the sponsors, the teams and the clubs.”