The Kia Oval has been renamed for 24 hours as the Kia Shahidul Alam Ratan Oval, in honour of a former Bangladesh cricketer who is now the leader of a London cricket charity which has been helping to keep children active during lockdown.
The Oval was one of a number of prominent sports venues in London to join an initiative to honour grassroots sport community workers and volunteers who, with the support of National Lottery funding, have gone above and beyond during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ratan, a wicketkeeper in Bangladesh’s pre-Test days in the 1980s and 1990s, is chief executive of Capital Kids Cricket, a charity which uses cricket as tool to change the lives of disadvantaged children.
During lockdown, Capital Kids Cricket created a digital activity zone to keep kids active, learning and keep in touch with each other socially. Ratan oversaw all their activity, including running virtual sessions with vulnerable kids such as refugees. The charity also arranged regular quiz evenings and family consultations via Zoom to ask about challenges they might face and offer support.
“It is brilliant news to be recognised with this honour and it means a lot,” Ratan said. “This may bring some light to the charity and people like me who want to make a change, who want to go the extra mile to help people who need it.
“To have a prestigious stadium like The Kia Oval named after me is a huge honour in the cricketing world, not only here in the UK. I would like to thank Surrey Cricket as well.
“Without funding, we can’t do anything. The National Lottery are a very generous funder,” he added.
“We work across London but we do a lot of coaching in Newham, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Westminster and Camden – then some bits in Hammersmith & Fulham and Ealing.
“As soon as we found out about going into lockdown, I had a call with our coaches and said we must make sure we keep things going.
“We have three or four clubs we look after and we told our coaches to set up activities within a home environment. Show the kids what they can do with batting, bowling and fielding within their home – in living rooms, small backyards or alleyways between houses.
“After two weeks, we decided to introduce a virtual challenge and competitive element. It was very simple challenges like keepie-uppies with the bat and ball, seeing how many times they could keep the ball up in the air, or juggling with two or three cricket balls.
“Once we finished that competition, we’d started to establish a connection with clubs around the world. We then wanted to do something simple to connect with those clubs and even more people.”
The charity initiated a virtual ball-passing game globally. Hundreds of people joined from the USA to Australia, South Africa to Sweden, including Syrian refugee camps from Lebanon, ending with a virtual celebration with 130 people and families from across the globe joining via zoom.
They have now started women and girl’s activities online, running aerobics exercises and boxing classes, and they also ran summer cricket camps in three locations, while constantly supporting parents over the phone who are facing loneliness or suffering from mental health challenges.
Other venues to change names this week will be Twickenham rugby stadium, The Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake, The Paula Radcliffe Athletics Track, The Geraint Thomas Velodrome in Wales and The National Outdoor Centre in Wales.
Dame Katherine Grainger, UK Sport Chair said, “It’s fantastic that sports across the nations have been able to come together to celebrate grassroots champions who have gone above and beyond this year. Around £30m a week is raised for good causes across the UK by people playing The National Lottery, and has helped sport at all levels, from the smallest rowing club to helping athletes prepare for the Tokyo Olympics next year.”
Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England, said: “With the help of The National Lottery’s players, thousands of grassroots sports workers and volunteers from local clubs and organisations across the UK have been be able to continue to help people and communities to remain active, connected and motivated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grassroots sport also has a fundamental role to play in providing much needed physical and mental wellbeing in these difficult times.”