In the past year, thanks to the generosity of individuals, clubs and counties, Project Front Foot and the dedicated founder Vic Mills have been able to transport 350 kilos of donated clothing and kit to Mumbai; a huge undertaking that would not have been possible without the continued support of British Airways.
After providing kit to our U14 and U18 squads, the surplus was placed with orphanages and NGOs in Mumbai and residential schools around Maharashtra.
To our established coaching team, Bhavana and Harshad, we were able to add the services of Pete Woolcock a sports graduate from Liverpool University who assisted Bhavana and Harshad in implementing new coaching drills and was on hand to set up and run PFF’s first ever fitness tests. Asim, Reality Gives Community Centre manager remained the conduit between the kids, coaches and our sister NGO Reality Gives.
The new intake of juniors reacted with energy and enthusiasm to the enhanced coaching regime. It was in the U18 squad, however, where project progress was most noticeable with ten of the 35-player squad graduating to the ranks of the Gymkhana U23s.This is the transition from junior to senior cricket we had hoped for and have been working towards for the past four years. And what better role model for the younger players of where hard work and dedication can lead.
Thanks to the work of Bhavana and Harshad, several of the U18 squad are themselves now working as paid coaching assistants around the Mumbai cricket scene. Find space to conduct the trained remained the main issue. Where once there were seven cricket grounds within walking distance of Dharavi there are now just two! A short fifteen minute walk for the children, the Indian Gymkhana Ground offers a safe haven for our teams to learn and play the game.
The season started with a great match in November: our U14 team achieved a resounding six wicket win against Poda School U14s in the suburbs of Mulund.
In mid-January the coaches organised an U18 trial match. From this a team was selected for its first competitive game of the season against an XI from the NGO Salaam Bombay.
In early March we were able to bolster project kit in Mumbai with Reality Gives co-founder, Chris Way, taking a further hundred kilos courtesy of British Airways. A final frosty Sunday morning repack revealed a total of 280 T-shirts, a dozen wooden stumps, eights sets of plastic stumps, 7 bats, 5 pairs of pads, 18 pairs of batting gloves, 2 cricket balls, 20 tennis balls, 3 boxes and 2 arm guards.
In March attendance was not at its best because the kids had to study for their annual school exams. But school must take precedence as PFF encourages the participating kids to put all necessary efforts into their studies.
April ended with the Indian Gymkhana Ex-Cricketers’ Association Awards Day. Voted the PFF Player of the Season by our coaches, Samir collected his award from a BCCI member.
As the season wound down with children, coaches and the Gymkhana’s mali looking towards ominously rain-filled skies, the project received a timely end of term boost with Indian shoe giant BATA agreeing to provide bats, balls and footwear through their Children’s Programme for the start of next season.
With the dust now settling on our fourth season in Mumbai, I can report that planning is already underway for the next. Chris will be taking further kit to Mumbai in early August, while Vic follow with the balance in late October.
Project Front Foot would like to thank its generous donors and kit collectors: Lindum CC, Kent Cricket Board, Northants CCC, Collingham CC, Nottinghamshire CCC, Derbyshire Cricket Board, Yorkshire Cricket Board and the Nottingham Tennis Centre as well as St Michael All Angels Church in Barnes, Jennifer and Jon Goodwin-Bresslaw, AkzoNobel staff via Tim Gill’s age defying Paris Marathon efforts and of course Britsh Airways.