Essex cricketer Kishen Velani went back to his roots as he dropped in on a London Youth Games training session for Redbridge this week.
The 19 year old represented his borough at Europe’s largest annual youth sports event as a youngster, since then he has gone on to represent England under 19s and last October was awarded a professional contract with Essex.
He joined the girls cricket squad session on Monday 27 January at Wanstead Leisure Centre as part of the Big Kick Off week for the Balfour Beatty London Youth Games, which sees the Girls’ Indoor Cricket qualifying rounds take place at Harrow on 8/9 February.
The Redbridge boys’ team are set for their own qualifiers at the same venue this coming weekend (1/2 February). Both teams are targeting a place at the Lord’s finals on Sunday 2 March.
Kishen Velani said: “I remember playing in three London Youth Games. It was a really good experience, it brings the community together, bringing all the players together to play cricket. If you play any competitive sport at a young age, you are going to get better.”
He also remembers the thrill of playing at Lord’s when competing in the London Youth Games. “It meant the world, you can’t often say you are going to play at Lord’s. It’s great to have that chance at that age. It’s really important for the girls. Cricket in terms of women is growing massively.”
The competition – one of 81 across 30 sports in this year’s London Youth Games – is for youngsters in Year 8 and younger. Redbridge Team Manager Pauline Osbourne is set to blood Year 6 and Year 7 pupils with an eye on future Games too.
The team is drawn from students at Caterham High, Woodford High, Churchfield Juniors and Our Lady of Lourdes School.
Redbridge finished 9th last year and Osbourne says anything could happen this year. The major goal for every competitor will be to follow in the footsteps of Velani towards the top level. Who is now looking forward to building a first-class career. “I’ve dreamt of it my whole life.” He said.
“It took a lot of hard work to get here, but it’s going to take even more hard work to stay here. At the moment, I am training every day. I’m at the gym every day trying to improve my game in every way I can. I’d like to play a few games for the first team this year.”
To find out more about the competing or volunteering at London Youth Games, visit londonyouthgames.org or follow @ldnyouthgames or @teamredbridge
Joanna Rowsell, Patron of 2014 Balfour Beatty London Youth Games