By: Pramod Thomas
THE co-chair of Middlesex’s equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) committee has urged to ‘evolve with society’ to achieve diversity goals as communities will continue to change.
In an interview with The Cricketer, Ankit Shah said that the perception of cricket cracked on matters of diversity, inclusion and anti-racism ‘can never be true’.
The big thing about understanding different cultures is getting everyone to see that there is a future in cricket, Shah, a management consultant by trade, said.
The committee has been running for almost two years now, and tangible change is on the way. Shah was appointed to the current role two years ago. He was invited by chief executive Andrew Cornish to form part of the selection panel for a new first-team coach following the departure of Stuart Law over the winter.
“The right person for the job would only be the right person for the job if they understood the sensitivities around EDI. If they don’t understand that and they don’t buy into our vision, then they’re not the right person for the club,” Shah was quoted as saying by The Cricketer.
The establishment of an EDI plan centred around community engagement in some of the region’s more diverse areas predates Azeem Rafiq’s allegations against Yorkshire.
According to the report, In early March, the county hosted a Ramadan workshop in collaboration with Nujum Sports, whose Muslim Athlete Charter they signed up to in February, becoming the first professional cricket club to make that step.
It is to ensure a better understanding of different cultures and faiths and to make the club a more welcoming environment for players and supporters.
They will hold an event in collaboration with Graces, the world’s first LGBTQ+ cricket club in April. Jamie Cross, the club’s equality and diversity officer, also sits on Middlesex’s EDI committee.
There are also separate links being developed with temples, mosques and synagogues, while there are plans for the club’s official website to be fully translatable into Urdu and Punjabi.
Shah spoke to former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding to talk over the county’s plans.
“What Mikey said – and he kept saying it – is that being different isn’t a bad thing. Through that, we have to educate ourselves in terms of a club but also as a society. The difference has to be embraced, and you need to learn about different cultures and different faiths,” he said about the meeting.
The club has appointed David Burton as its first transition coach, a role born out of a focus group that featured players of Asian heritage who represented the county either at the academy, second-team or senior level.
At present, 60 per cent of the club’s academy intake are of ethnic minority background. However, Thilan Walallawita and Ishaan Kaushal are the only players of Asian descent currently on the men’s senior staff.
Norman Cowans, another member of the county’s EDI committee, was part of the Middlesex side of the 1980s – along with Roland Butcher, Wilf Slack, Neil Williams and Wayne Daniel – that regularly featured five black players, better reflecting the ethnic diversity of the region.
“We should celebrate the success of that side. Not necessarily because they were that diverse, but because they were comfortable in being a diverse team without being classed as ‘look how diverse they are’,” Shah said.
The addition of Stephen Eskinazi, as the newest member of the EDI committee, has come as a major source of satisfaction from him.
Eskinazi, a senior player, approached the county himself and offered his services after chatting with Shah at a club day.
Shah told The Cricketer: “I can do all the planning and talking that I want. But if people perceive you and your club to be a certain way, then that’s what they’ll believe, whether that’s right or wrong. Everything we say is all well and good, but until perception around cricket and society changes, we’re not going to necessarily achieve success.”