When not padded up with helmet, gloves and bat in hand, a charity cricket project is equipping kids from Tower Hamlets with the kit to build a brighter future. 

Wicketz, a Lord’s Taverners project using cricket as a tool for change, have held a presence in 16 regions of the UK since 2012 and its Hamlets hub launched at the end of 2015. 

Based in Victoria Park and masterminded by Development Officer Shakeel Ahmed, the scheme started out as purely recreational but a number of competitive games have already been hosted. 

Ahmed – making a big impact in hard-to-reach areas as Participation Project Co-ordinator at Middlesex CCC  - underlined the importance of the scheme in addressing the area’s social issues.

“We started out running a lot of taster sessions in schools, community youth hubs and mosques to reach out to young people,” he said.

“Tower Hamlets is one of London’s most deprived boroughs, so Wicketz really helps provide young people with opportunities they wouldn’t usually have access to.

“Especially with the gang and knife crime there is around, and all of the negative influences, this is one of the great ways to keep children out of trouble and give them something to focus on.

“All of the kids we’ve engaged are hard-to-reach, so this represents a life turnaround for all of them and has had a massive impact.”

As part of Wicketz, kids from Tower Hamlets spent three unforgettable days at the programme’s national festival at Repton School from August 6-8.

The event brought together participants from across the UK, with the East London contingent thrown into teams alongside youngsters from Hartlepool and Manchester.  

Using the Derbyshire school’s world-class facilities, the 8 to 16-year-olds were put through their paces by former England and Nottinghamshire coach Peter Moores and ex-England bowler Kabir Ali. 

Ahmed sung the praises of the professionals who helped his kids develop their cricketing skills.

“The residential trip was fantastic for us and the fact they were given access to all the coaching facilities for free sums up why Wicketz is special,” he added.

“Kabir ran a bowling masterclass with the boys and some of them who are fast bowlers can take what he told them and bring it back to their clbus.

“Everyone takes something different from cricket, it’s unique in that sense, but I think a big part of it is socialising and making friends.

“At Repton we met up with kids from areas of the country we’d never normally meet and that’s a big thing for those taking part in the programme in Tower Hamlets.” 

Derbyshire all-rounder Luis Reece – also on hand to share his expertise with bat and ball – was enthused by the energy of the young participants.

“Everyone should have the opportunity the game we love and this programme offers that to kids who might not otherwise get the chance,” said the former Lancashire ace.

“They are talented kids who all came down with a smile on their face and asked me lots of questions, which is very rewarding to see.”

Using cricket as a tool for change, Wicketz is aimed at hard-to-reach youngsters aged 8-16 within areas of high deprivation across the UK, by engaging young people who live in communities where there are few opportunities to play the game regularly.