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Cricketing community comes together at Blundstone

THE cricketing community came together at Blundstone Arena for a day of competition and fun that showcased diversity and inclusion.

The Community Cricket Celebration Day was held on Sunday 7 February and featured three games.

The first game was between the Southern and Northern All Abilities teams, with the Southern team coming out on top.

The players have intellectual disabilities, but play for mainstream clubs.

Southern All Abilities player Blake Bonnitcha said it was a great experience to play on Blundstone Arena.

“So many unbelievable players have played on that cricket pitch and on the ground, so it was amazing to play, get a decent score, get a wicket, have some fun and get the win,” he said.

The second game was a high-quality contest between an Indigenous Invitational XI and a Cricket Tasmania Pathways XI.

Normally the Indigenous team would travel to Alice Springs to the National Indigenous Championships, but COVID-19 restrictions stopped that.

This game was an opportunity for them to play against some really high quality opposition.

“It was a really good opportunity to play for your state and play for your culture – you don’t get the opportunity every day of the week, so when it does come along, you take it with two hands,” Indigenous XI player Jack Callinan said.

The day was capped off by the 2021 Hurricanes Champions League grand final, a significant event in the cricket calendar and a milestone for the Intercultural Sports League (ICSL).

The Hurricanes Champions League is a partnership between the Hobart Hurricanes and the ICSL that was established in 2017 and supported through the Hurricanes Foundation, with 14 teams playing in this year’s competition.

This was the first time the grand final was held at Blundstone Arena, with previous years’ grand finals being held at KGV in Glenorchy.

The final was played between the KLM Kings and the Tasmanian Punjabi Sports Club, with the KLM Kings coming out on top.

“The competition is getting better and bigger with every year because more people are migrating from different states as well,” KLM Kings captain Umair Butt said.

“I think ICSL is one of the competitions that has brought all the communities together to one platform and is somewhere you can actually make friends – it’s not only about cricket, it’s much bigger.”

The ICSL is an incorporated not-for-profit organisation founded by Mohan Mattala and Raj Chopra.  

It aims to reduce isolation experienced by refugee and migrant communities in Tasmania through participation in sport.

“The competitors are players from diverse cultural backgrounds including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Syria and Australia,” said ICSL co-founder Mr Mattala.

In 2020, the ICSL was granted $2,865 from the Tasmanian Government’s Communities, Sport and Recreation’s COVID-19 Sport and Recreation Grants to assist with items needed to return to play safely including hand sanitiser, wipes and cricket balls.

“Tasmania is a culturally, religiously and linguistically diverse state, with a long history of migration,” local Liberal Member Elise Archer said.

“I commend Raj, Mohan and John for having the initiative and sheer determination to pursue their dream of socially integrating our culturally diverse communities through sport and cricket in particular.

“It’s great to see the rapid growth of the number of teams competing from nine teams in 2017 to 14 this season.”

“As a supporter of the ICSL since its inception, it has been my absolute pleasure to be involved in supporting and sponsoring this organisation, knowing how important it is for people to connect with and support each other.”

Director of cricket at Glenorchy Cricket Club Simon Stebbings attended the event.

“Through the Glenorchy Cricket Club, specifically the Elise Archer Sponsorship, 15 players have been supported to play Premier League cricket,” he said.

Cricket Tasmania general manager of community cricket Ben Smith said it was important that Blundstone Arena acted as a community cricket ground.

“It’s part of the community and it’s a great asset for the Tasmanian community, so every opportunity that we can get to get anyone who loves the game and wants to play cricket the opportunity to play here is really important,” he said.

“We’re really keen to make sure that cricket is a sport for all and celebrating all of these different groups who enjoy our game is really important to us.”