Wasim Khan on his day at the Palace

Days after receiving his MBE, Chance to Shine Chief Executive Wasim Khan talked to us about the award and visiting Buckingham Palace:

Can you describe the day to us?

It started at six o’clock in the morning in Birmingham. My wife, mother, sister and son were very excited as to what the day held. We drove down to London and we arrived in London around half past nine. Making that journey quite regularly, I’m used to what time we would be arriving and I knew that we would arrive at Park Lane at half nine on the dot. I think we were one of the first cars to arrive at Buckingham Palace. We passed through the security checks and walked in.


How were you feeling at that point?

At that moment in time I was fine and was really looking forward to the day. I think the other four in the car were hugely excited but at that stage I felt quite calm. We got escorted in, the other guests started to arrive and then we were diverted off as we walked in through the main doors within Buckingham Palace. The families were taken to the left and we were told to go to the right where we congregated with all the other award winners. At that stage it starts to build up and you’re chatting away and you look around and think: wow I’m the youngest one here. You see so much inspiration in the room, people with 30 years of service and voluntary services amongst other achievements. I was talking to a man who just served in Afghanistan, he used to detonate bombs and he was receiving an award for bravery. It makes you feel very humble that you’re amongst these people that have achieved such great things and you’re part of this illustrious group. You start to feel a huge amount of gratitude towards the people that have helped you get here and I felt very humble from the moment that I arrived. But it was great, the crescendo when you’re waiting and suddenly you’re being taken through and you’re lining up with everyone.

If you had been told as a young lad that you would be playing at Buckingham Palace, receiving an award from the Queen, what would you have thought?

I think one of the things you do as a youngster is that you aspire to play professional sport or you want to go into a certain profession. You have a vision as to what you want to be. I decided that from an early age I wanted to play professional cricket and that was my main goal. In many ways you create great visions of the future. You see yourself picking up a trophy at Lord’s or you see yourself playing for England. It fills you with a huge amount of confidence, that this is what awaits me. But if I’m honest I don’t think I ever saw myself walking into Buckingham Palace and picking up and Honour for work that I did. For a start I didn’t know what I would be doing after cricket. If someone had told me 25 years ago that you would be walking into Buckingham Palace to pick up an Honour for recognition of work outside of cricket I would not have believed it as I don’t think you can imagine something like this. I just can’t believe it.

What does it mean to you?

It’s wonderful because it’s recognition of all the work that you’ve done. It’s great to be rewarded or recognised in this way. Ultimately the majority will tell you that they do this good work because they are passionate about it. It stirs their soul. They’re doing something because they believe in it. They wake up every morning with the passion for what they are doing. So this is the icing on the cake. But you can’t help but to reflect on the support you’ve had to get there. I wouldn’t have been walking up there if we didn’t have a hugely talented team at the Cricket Foundation behind the scenes. I felt gratitude and happiness that I had played such a huge part, in the beginning particularly, when we sat there with a blank piece of paper and worked out how we were going to get this project to work. Everyone was telling us that it couldn’t work. To rise to that challenge and to make something work and to see Chance to Shine flourishing as it is today, and to be rewarded for the work, is hugely satisfying. You can’t help to feel humble and have respect for the people who have helped.

What has the reaction been by your friends and family?

Everyone has been overwhelmed by it. I guess in my own mind I have tried to play it down because it’s a nice way to deal with it, without losing the whole enjoyment factor when I walked through the doors of Buckingham Palace. I thought I must enjoy today because everyone kept saying that this is a once in a lifetime experience. So for me it was about making sure I enjoyed it, not be too overwhelmed by it and don’t live off it for the rest of your lives. Once you walk back out the doors at the end you’re back to reality so you need to cherish the moment. Cherish the experience you have had. But let family and friends revel in it. But for you it’s about carrying on as normal but knowing you had a wonderful experience and cherishing the memories.

Tell us about the moment you walk up to the Queen. What was going on in your mind, and how were you feeling?

You are briefed before you go out and you’re prepped as to what you have to do. As I was three behind in the line the nerves start to kick in a bit. You hope that everything will go well. So you walk up, it’s pinned on and the Queen talks to you about your work. I was very fortunate that I was at the Palace two weeks ago for a private lunch with the Queen and the Duke. She was obviously briefed again. I was a needle in a haystack but she remembered and said “Great to see you again, great the work that you’re doing and great the numbers you’ve got involved”. It gives you a bit of an opportunity to tell her a little bit more about that work that you do. She’s got an unbelievable skill to make you feel completely relaxed, years of experience and knowing that it can be an uncomfortable experience for some people. She’s totally relaxed and that makes you relaxed. It’s just like talking to a normal person and having a conversation with them.

Chance to Shine is about inspiring the next generation, are you hopeful that awards like this can inspire other youngsters to go on and achieve big things?

Absolutely, you look around at what people do out there. People work selflessly within cricket as volunteers within sport and never get recognised. I’ve been very lucky that I have worked with such a high profile campaign where there has been a lot of media attention and so my work has been highlighted more. I’ve been fortunate because of that but there is a lot of understated work going on out there and they don’t get the coverage or the PR with regards to the work they do. But hopefully if people are doing great work, people will put them forward, tell the Honours system about their work and get them the recognition that they deserve. Whilst it’s not the bee all and end all, it is wonderful feeling. Hopefully people from inner cities will look at what I’ve achieved and think, firstly, he was the first British born Pakistani to play professional cricketer in this country, write a book and go on and do the work that he’s done and now he’s recognised in this way. The opportunities are there to excel and be the very best that you can be. So hopefully people will draw inspiration from my journey and what I’ve done, and how I have managed to be recognised, and think: You know what I can emulate that, or I can do even better. If there’s one message from coming out of me getting an Honour it is that anyone with ambition, drive and resilience can do what I have been lucky enough to achieve.


Finally, what next, a knighthood?

I’m happy doing what I’m doing. The recognition was a surprise, it was fantastic and I feel very humbled by it. But what drives me is carrying on the work that we are doing. What doesn’t drive me is what is next in climbing up a ladder in terms of Honours. If things happen in the future great, if they don’t, wonderful. But more importantly I can sleep at night knowing that we have given the opportunity for 2million children to play cricket who wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play. I’m involved with a great organisation, it’s been wonderful to be given the opportunities to lead the organisation and we can continue to do great things. That’s what I would love to be remembered for, that I was able to contribute to that.


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