A CRICKET tournament bringing together different groups from across Basingstoke in aid of two charities took place today (Sunday, August 22).

The Sewa Day event was jointly organised by Basingstoke Hindu Society, UK-wide organisation Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the Telugu Association of Basingstoke (TAB), and Sewa Day.

Sewa Day is an international day of volunteering, where groups across the world come together to support one another and good causes.

A total of 12 teams made up of people of all cricketing abilities, not just from Basingstoke, but from Reading, Newbury, Slough, Southampton and many other places, joined together at May’s Bounty for the event, which was also a celebration of Rakhsha Bhandhan, a hindu festival celebrating the pious relationship between brothers and sisters.

One of the organisers, Bikram Banarjee, told the Gazette how the event intended to combine shared love of cricket with friendship, community spirit, and charitable giving.

Basingstoke Gazette: Satya Sookhun (left) and Bikram Banarjee (right)Satya Sookhun (left) and Bikram Banarjee (right)

This was the fifth Sewa Day cricket match and, each year, one local charity and one Indian charity is selected.

This year, the teams chose Limington House, a school for children with special educational needs in Basingstoke, as well as BHAS UK, an organisation which works for Bengali speaking Hindus in India and Bangladesh, and which is raising funds to support those affected by recent natural disasters in the West Bengal region of India.

Explaining the choice, Bikram said: “It is our belief that no child should go hungry, and during the school holidays some disadvantaged children are at risk of this.”

Satya Sookhun added: “Sewa is more than charity. It’s service to the community. It’s selfless charity.”

Basingstoke Gazette: Cllrs Samir Kotecha and Dan Putty with spectators Mano Singh, Suresh Kotecha and Kanak Rajgor who have all been previously heavily involved with the organising groupsCllrs Samir Kotecha and Dan Putty with spectators Mano Singh, Suresh Kotecha and Kanak Rajgor who have all been previously heavily involved with the organising groups

Cross-party attendance from councillors was encouraged with Mayor of Basingstoke, Cllr Onnalee Cubitt, making an appearance, as well as otters including Cllrs Andrew McCormick, Dan Putty, Arun Mummalaneni, Samir Kotecha, and Jay Ganesh.

Cllr Dan Putty said: “It’s absolutely fantastic, a really amazing event.

“I tried a little bit! Everybody is participating. I had the honour of giving out some of the medals and it was great to see the happiness, and the cheerfulness.

“Some of the talent that is coming through, it just makes you feel so good. The children, I am in awe of them! In probably five years time we will have half the England team here - that’s what I would like to see!”

Basingstoke Gazette: Bikram Banarjee with Cllrs Dan Putty and Arun MummalaneniBikram Banarjee with Cllrs Dan Putty and Arun Mummalaneni

Cllr Samir Kotecha added: “The idea was to get all different communities, of different background, not just from Asia, involved. We are trying to create a united town. We don’t want to make the mistakes of other towns where, unfortunately, there is invisible segregation.”

Having been born and brought up in Basingstoke, Cllr Kotecha says he has seen the demographic “change completely” and hopes for more events like this in the future.

Basingstoke Gazette: Cllr Samir KotechaCllr Samir Kotecha

And it wasn’t just the cricket that was peaking interest. Children’s activities including a bouncy castle, and home-cooked lunch was on offer.

One of the ladies told the Gazette that the team had been working in the kitchen most of the weekend to prepare.

“It’s for a good cause and its never too much work as we have so many helping hands, it’s a family. It’s so nice that after two years of Covid we get a chance to meet all together.

Basingstoke Gazette: Delicious home-made food was on offerDelicious home-made food was on offer

Chairman of the Basingstoke Hindu Society, Kishor Patel, added: “It’s a fantastic community effort today, and shows that Basingstoke is a vibrant place.”

Kishor said the organising team estimates that they will raise in excess of £4,000 for the charities chosen.