The Handsworth Park bench with the hidden secret of Birmingham cricket history

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Handsworth Cricket Club was formed in 1976 by two men and only one of them is still alive - Kazi Khan, whose family has links to the anti-apartheid movement

The origin story of this cricket club goes back many decades. Almost half a century ago, two individuals decided to start a grassroot cricket club.

In 1976, Kazi Khan and Fred Clark were the first park umpires in Handsworth. Khan had moved from Transvaal, South Africa and Clark from Barbados. Khan’s family was involved in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. His uncle had shared a prison cell with Nelson Mandela.

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The influence of Khan and Clark can be felt even today at the Handsworth Cricket Club, which was honoured with a bench at Handsworth Park last year.

Bench honoring Handsworth Cricket Club at Handsworth park Bench honoring Handsworth Cricket Club at Handsworth park
Bench honoring Handsworth Cricket Club at Handsworth park

The young black and Asian players that play at the club today owe their debt to the umpiring duo. But, it was not a simple journey for the club. The members of the club faced racism in 1976 and decided to form a breakaway League - Birmingham Commonwealth Cricket League.

They contacted all black clubs in the area, of which there were around 10 at the time, and formed the league on a Sunday. For many many years, the teams played against each other and it used to be packed with the community. Many new clubs were formed during that time such as the Muhammad Ali Centre - to which Handsworth resident and local historian Trevor McIntosh belonged.

Trevor McIntosh (in red) with cricketers at the clubTrevor McIntosh (in red) with cricketers at the club
Trevor McIntosh (in red) with cricketers at the club

He started playing cricket as a youth in the late 70s. “This was a good time for Afro Caribbean cricket. Unfortunately, in 1995, the league faced losses and closed, but a few players decided to continue,” he said while sitting on the bench, which has become a symbol of the past struggles.

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They formed two clubs with what was left of the league and Handsworth Park came to have two occupiers - Continental and Rangers CC. However, there were certain issues and racism raised its head in the clubs with individuals complaining that the clubs were only open to Afro Caribbeans.

Handsworth Cricket ClubHandsworth Cricket Club
Handsworth Cricket Club

Trevor, who was the chair at the time, changed the name of the club to Handsworth CC - which still carries on. “It’s been a real struggle but you know I’m proud of the journey. I was ecstatic when just after COVID I approached the Heritage Trust, and they backed the story of the Caribbean history of the cricket club here,” he added.

“I’m so proud of this little bench that I have,” he said.

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