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24 Jun

‘First of it’s kind’ Walking Cricket launch in Bradford

A new Walking Cricket group for women has started in Bradford to help support the community.

The new cricket initiative launched by Dream Big, Aim High Cic, Girlington Community Centre, Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF) and U3a, saw roughly 20 women participants take part in a free taster session at Girlington Community Centre on Wednesday, 22 June.

Walking Cricket – an adaptation of the traditional game, was developed as a new concept in 2019 by u3a, an organisation to support older people. The activity has already been a huge hit across a number of Yorkshire towns and cities, including Leeds, Wakefield and Barnsley.

Pictured, Councillor Fozia Shaheen – Toller ward

Councillor Fozia Shaheen, of the Toller ward, who is helping spearhead the sessions in the community and took part in the session, said: “It’s amazing to see so many women from different backgrounds and cultures, under one roof and this has all been possible thanks to organisations working together, to achieve amazing things in the community.

“It’s amazing to see so many women from different backgrounds and cultures, under one roof.

“The atmosphere has been magical – and it’s supporting the women’s physical health as well as their mental health and wellbeing.”

PHOTOS: Walking Cricket launch in Bradford

There are a number of health benefits to Walking Cricket including aiding mobility and increasing health and wellbeing – including those living with mental health conditions.

“We know a lot of women due to the pandemic have been isolating and have spent a lot of time indoors, and this is giving them that safe space and giving that environment where they can actually be themselves, play and enjoy,” said Coun Shaheen, who is a qualified Level 2 cricket coach.

Participants enjoyed trying out the free Walking Cricket session at the Girlington Community Centre this week

Just as important as the cricket itself is the social element to Walking Cricket, with tea, coffee and biscuits provided and the opportunity for catch-up after the sessions.

Coun Shaheen, who is also the founder of the Dream Big, Aim High CiC, said: “It’s about saying to the women – it’s not only about the game, it’s about the social side of it as well. It’s about making friends – after each session there is a little tea break as well – where they will get to talk to each other, laugh, talk about what the game was all about.

“It is also important to note some of these women are struggling with their mental health – some are living with severe depression, anxiety difficulties – to see them out here is really, really an honour to have set something like this up in Girlington to give these women that space.

“It gives me so much pride and honour to be part of such groups with these incredible women – it’s been really, really fun and I’ve absolutely loved it. I encourage women – please do come, enjoy this – this is for them and this is a community centre for all the communities.”

Jamshad Sehgal, 61, a Community Health Worker, from Girlington Centre, who also took part in the session said: “I think the sessions are fantastic – cricket is a game that everyone loves.

“It’s a game that in our South Asian culture a lot follow the game cricket by watching it – but playing some of these women have never held a bat in their lives. They did and they were brilliant at it.

“For all the women taking part it’s helping their physical health as well as supporting their mental health.

“The atmosphere has been wonderful. We’ve had young people – 30 years old right up to older people with a 70-year-old participant. The older ladies left their walking sticks and wanted to take part and even if they couldn’t take part they were sat in their chairs clapping and excited and forgetting all their problems.

Pictured Jamshad Sehgal (left) a Community Health Worker, from Girlington Centre, celebrating with her team mate.

Mussart Dad, 53, a participant, added: “It’s been a really good experience – it’s nice to get the opportunity to do this – I’ve really enjoyed it and the other women did as well.

“It takes your mind of things – it’s a team game – playing together and it just encourages you to try new things.

“For any women in the city I would encourage them to try it out… It takes the stress away – you are laughing, enjoying everything and Walking Cricket is big on the social side.”

For the future the aim is to establish weekly sessions at the Girlington Community Centre and see the growth in women participants grow.

Coun Shaheen, said: “I am delighted to be working with Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, u3a and other VCSE organisations to bring this new concept to Bradford.

“Walking Cricket will help to tackle isolation and poor mental health, and will also help to lift moods and get people active. This is an opportunity to get our elders active through sport.”

From left, Norah Hoult, alongside Jamshad Sehgal, Kendal James (YCF), Mac Mckechnie, Zain Ul Abdin and Councillor Fozia Shaheen.

Mac Mckechnie, founder of Walking Cricket in Yorkshire, who umpired the session, said: “I certainly hope for Bradford that Walking Cricket gets established across the city in different groups and different communities because I saw a lot of enjoyment today and enjoyment from older semi retired and retired people is a marvelous thing and it can be quite rare.

“People may feel isolated and lonely in a lot of cases and it is only community groups that holds people together. I hope it can only grow and develop.

PHOTOS: Walking Cricket launch in Bradford

Kendal James, Participation Manager for the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation, added: “This has been a pioneering moment for walking cricket, and we are delighted after three years to finally be able to take walking cricket into the new city of culture, Bradford!

“It has been a long time coming and what a marvellous and humbling occasion it was, to hear a lady comment to say “you don’t know how long I have waited to do this” amongst the noise of laughter and seeing the pure joy on these ladies faces.”

How to get involved in Walking Cricket

Weekly social sessions currently take place across 12 hubs in the region designed for absolute beginners right through to ex-cricketers and there is also a Yorkshire representative team – with the hope to play country matches in the future and green field Walking Cricket (played on a field).

If you are interested in finding out more about Walking Cricket groups near you, please visit: bit.ly/WalkingCricket

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