London: A cricket club from south-east England has gone fully vegan, inspired by many of its Indian-origin players who struggled with the meat options on the menu.
Early Cricket Club, which runs two teams in the Berkshire Cricket League and plays regular friendly as well as competitive matches, now serves up Indian curries as well as a range of other vegan options for their mid-match meal – referred to as the “tea”. “All the players love our teas, which range from sandwiches with veg and humus fillings, potatoes, vegan chilli or a kind of English version of rajma, spring rolls and fruits. The teas cover a well-rounded diet and provide us a strong sense of contribution towards a cleaner environment,” said Prasad Menon, a Pune-born all-rounder who has been part of the club for over 10 years.
Club chairman Gary Shacklady, himself a vegan, realised that many of the meals, especially at away grounds, were inaccessible to many of the players. This included the team’s Hindu and Muslim players, who do not eat beef and pork for religious reasons. “As a vegan myself, I found the same barriers, so we removed the barrier and now everyone piles their plates high,” said Shacklady, who decided to provide a “tea” which would give people of all faiths the same level of choice.
“Gary is staunch supporter of veganism, and often prepares teas for all our home games. It is his passion towards veganism which led to tasty, more healthy and ethical teas being introduced,” notes Menon.
“It was us and people from Pakistani origin (preferring halal), who were often reduced to a packet of crisps (chips) and fruits during our teas because traditional local teas often comprised of meat and egg sandwiches and meat pizzas,” said the opening swing bowler and lower middle order batsman, who believes the vegan meals are also healthier and more conducive for the purposes of the game.
The club is made up of a diverse range of nationalities and age, from youth level players to older players. It has an equal proportion of British and Non-British amateur cricketers, with Indians and Indian-origin players forming a sizeable chunk of the club, followed by people of Pakistani origin and others from South Africa and the Caribbean.
“The club was started by a bunch of youths in Lower Earley neighbourhood in Reading town and has since grown into a much diverse mix of like-minded individuals who love their cricket, love their curry and like to have a good laugh,” explains Menon, who got involved following a chance encounter with club chairman Shacklady on a train.
The club has taken a further step towards veganism, which involves a plant-based lifestyle abstaining from the use of any animal products, by testing out vegan balls during practice sessions in the nets.
“We have started experimenting with vegan balls in the nets. They aren’t match worthy yet. Hopefully manufacturers would invest in it if there is larger demand,” said Menon.