The journey began back in 1982 when a handful of cricket fanatics in the small towns of High Wycombe and Slough joined together to establish the Sunday Asian Cricket League. The two founders Mr Fareed Ansari and Mr Parviez Aslam (MBE) were elected and they took the responsibility to form a committee to run the league.
Within a short period of time, more and more towns joined the league and the league entered a new dimension it expanded from 8 teams to 15 teams in 2 divisions from 3 Home Counties. Early league champions included Chesham Pakistanis, Watford Haidrey, High Wycombe Stars, and Reading International.
In the late nineties and early twenties as the standard of cricket was improving there was more interest from other towns and counties and the catchment area was increased to the whole of the South of England. The league attracted players from different backgrounds and origins: players from Pakistan, India, Kenya, West Indies, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and some local English players were playing in this league. It was then appropriate to re-name the league to the South East Sunday Cricket League(SESCL). The Sunday afternoon game became more competitive when one professional player per team was introduced and the likes of Mushtaq Ahmed (Pakistan), Mohammed Akram (Pakistan), and Aftab Habib (England) were entertaining the crowds on the weekends.
With its popularity, the league attracted new sponsors when every bank holiday was reserved for a tournament, which included The Anwar Moghul Trophy, Vee Kay Sports Trophy, The Roland Butcher Trophy, and the MB Malik Trophy. The league’s annual presentation became a ‘Must Attend’ event not just only for the number of trophies that were given out on the night but also for the celebrities and entertainers who attended the presentations to name a few: former Pakistan fast bowler/captain Waqar Younis, former England player Mark Ilott. From the world of entertainment as well as the local Pakistani and Indian singers the legendry Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan and the Sabri brothers have entertained the audience at these events. Being a non-profitable organisation taking the opportunity of these events, the league with its members has raised money and supported many UK charities during the earthquake in Pakistan and Bangladesh flood appeal to name a few.
In keeping with the latest cricket trends, the last ten years saw the introduction of coloured clothing, a new digital ID card system to replace the old paper cards. The online presence has continued to grow and improve, with the introduction of social media accounts, to keep the league in closer contact with clubs and players. SESCL moved to use the ECB’s official Play-Cricket platform for collecting all-league scorecards. For the first time, this enabled the league, club, and player historical records to be kept. All of this information in now online dating back to 2015, and all players can now view their career statistics over this period. Introducing the ACO panel of umpires in the Premier and division one raised the standard of cricket to pretty much Saturday cricket league.
Every year eight to ten new applications are received, to say the least 18 new teams from a wider stretch is been added in the last 3 years and we now have 65 teams in 7 divisions. Since we moved away from the park pitches there is a shortage of private grounds. New clubs are struggling to get decent grounds and the league is now looking to integrate with local clubs playing Saturday league to share their grounds with us on Sunday as 70% of our players play Saturday cricket with them. Due to the diverse backgrounds of the players even in the month of Ramadan player’s commitments whilst fasting is to keep the club running, the matches are reduced to 20 over.
During the 40 years the league rep side has played several prestigious matches in England and has participated in National tournaments such as Birmingham Open, The Sovereign Trophy organised by the CCC and supported by the ECB, but the highlights of the league’s achievements are the tours abroad: the rep side enjoyed the hospitality of the host community, playing at the National Stadium in Karachi and Sharjah Stadium in Dubai. To mark its 40th anniversary, the league committee and its members unanimously chose to tour Pakistan at the end of this season. Trials will be held during this season and players are invited from all divisions to participate in rep games and the final squad will be announced in July/August.
Finally, due to the pandemic, it has been a challenging few years; however, I am proud to say that with perseverance the league managed to complete most if not all of the matches in the last season. At the 2021 AGM, it was pronounced that with increasing numbers of multi-cultural teams, from 6 Home Counties in 7 divisions, the name of the league will be changed from South/East Sunday Cricket League to South/East Shires Cricket League. It’s been a remarkable journey over 40 years and no doubt with the support of the NACC and the ECB it will continue for many more years to come.