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27 Jul

How did I ever get involved in Walking Cricket?

Perhaps I should start from the “beginning” of when cricket came into my life…well, this would be at Hanson Grammar School for Boys in Bradford in Spring1962.
It was not even a case of: “Do you want to play cricket?” but more one of “Cricket tomorrow, boys, and make sure you have a white shirt.”

This was the start of the adventure and one that involved Hanson regularly winning the inter schools competitions in Bradford. It did help that one David Bairstow was in the team but he was not the wicketkeeper, these duties usually fell to Michael “Tank” Hemingway. So, just like his son in the current England team, Jonny Bairstow, these duties often eluded him.
David must be immensely proud of Jonny and will, I am sure, be watching from on high and he will be claiming Jonny’s batting prowess has come from him no doubt!
Cricket had to take a back seat at school as swimming took most of my sporting commitments and it was not until I met David Bairstow at Wakefield Westgate Railway Station around 1971 when his comments can be translated to something like, “Who you playing (cricket) for these days?” This was after he attended a Disciplinary at Lords after an incident involving throwing his cricket bat after a dubious umpiring decision – or, at least, he claimed it was – together with a few Anglo Saxon expletives…
Anyway this “encouraged” me to start playing league cricket in Bradford until work commitments meant a move to Crofton near Wakefield.
It was here at Crofton that I met and started playing cricket with one, Chris Parkes in 1985.
I stopped playing cricket due to old age and work commitments in 2013 and thought that was the end my cricket playing days but one day Chris invited me to join him play Walking Cricket.
After I stopped laughing Chris explained that Walking Cricket was played with a plastic(!) bat and a lighter, soft ball and that, of course, there was “no running allowed”. There is no need to wear any protective gear so no pads, gloves etc. It was also played indoors – it was, after all, midwinter at the time.
Anyone who knows Chris will know that saying that you are not interested, is (whilst not impossible) quite difficult so I thought I would try Walking Cricket.
Why would anyone want to play cricket in a sports hall in Winter with a plastic bat and lighter ball? A game that involves players with replacement hips, reduced mobility and other problems. A game that was so new that its Rules had not even been fully drawn up.
It must be a bit of a joke – surely?
Well I got that wrong!

Walking Cricket is still evolving but its original ethos still holds: a game that can be played by ex and non cricketers alike and teams should include (ideally) 3 women in a team of 8.
So perhaps you are thinking Walking Cricket is not for me. I cannot bat or bowl and I have never played cricket before. Or even, I played at school and hated it.
How wrong you are! This is a new, very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

There are two types of Walking Cricket evolving: social and competitive. Both have (now) basically the same rules and are played on a shortened pitch, no 22 yards here!
Every player bats for 4 overs – even if you are “out”, and
Every player has to bowl 2 overs – these can be over or under arm…because not everyone at our age has the mobility to bowl overarm.
As a full game takes about 2 hours it can be played easily after dropping off or collecting the grandchildren from school or nursery.

Walking Cricket was a revelation for me.
It is certainly different from “proper” cricket but the one thing it does have is the interaction between players.
Everyone (eventually) accepts that while your mind thinks you can do all the things you used to do when you were younger, your body reminds you that you cannot…often resulting much falling about and laughter from all.

Many of the players here at Crofton, Wakefield have had little or no experience playing cricket but all are encouraged to take part and there is even coaching available for those wanting to improve.
For ex cricketers the game of Walking Cricket means learning new skills.
Batting against someone bowling slow underarm results in many experienced batters losing their wicket to a lady much to the delight of their ex team members!

Bowling with these lighter weight balls on shortened pitches means learning new skills too and often ex opening bowlers send down what can, at best, be described as rubbish…and I am speaking from personal experience unfortunately!
So Walking Cricket is a great leveller and the experienced ex player may think they will find the change to the Walking Cricket game easy but they are in for a surprise.

Just ask Mark whose wife, Muriel, who has never played cricket before. Not only did Muriel clean bowl her husband, she also caught him out and outscored him with the bat – all in the same match! Sorry, Mark, for telling everyone…and even though you were the First Team wicketkeeper Muriel outshone you when she kept wicket in the same match too!
Am I glad I started playing Walking Cricket? Well that is easy, it’s a big YES!

John Smith-Warren (July 2021)


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