Walking Cricket group supporting Beeston community
A new Walking Cricket group has started in Beeston, Leeds, to help support the community as the activity continues to grow rapidly across Yorkshire.
The Beeston group, which has been running since last month, saw roughly 12 people in the local area taking part with participants ranging from 48 to100 years-old, on Wednesday, 13 July.
The new cricket initiative was made possible by the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF) in partnership with u3a and the Hamara Centre.
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 takes the traditional game’s rules and adds one more “no running” to make it accessible, no matter what the person’s ability. And Walking Cricket is also sociable, affordable and fun with many people having benefitted both mentally and physically because of the activity.
The activity has already been a huge hit across a number of Yorkshire towns and cities, including Leeds, Wakefield and Barnsley with Beeston being one of the newest additions, alongside a new women’s only group which started at the Girlington Community Centre, in Bradford recently and a new group that started in Todmorden this week.
Walking Cricket in Yorkshire, shown at Beeston, aims to be inclusive for all – bringing people from all backgrounds together.
Pictured, Walking Cricket participant Aftab Ahmed, bowling at the session this week.
Walking Cricket was masterminded by Barnsley local and proud Yorkshiremen Mac Mckechnie, 72, who umpired and took part in the recent session at Beeston.
Mac, who was recently shortlisted for the BBC Radio Leeds – Make a Difference Awards in the Volunteer Category, has played a fundamental role in helping the continuing success of the activity across Yorkshire including dedicating his time to help run the sessions.
Mac said: “It is a wonderful game for the older generation, there is no pressure involved and is open to all genders and backgrounds.
“There is not much for older folks like me in normal cricket – it is physically demanding so Walking Cricket gives ex-cricketers or even individuals who haven’t played cricket before a chance to get involved.
“People have told me it has had a direct positive impact on their life and makes them feel better, particularly after the struggle of the pandemic for the older generation.”
Mac, who originally set up the first Walking Cricket group – Barnsley u3a – in 2018, having suffered from sepsis and needing to get into better shape for his health, added: “I am certainly not done with growing Walking Cricket yet, there is still lots more to be done to spread the game and make people aware of Walking Cricket.
“My next challenge goes beyond the borders of Yorkshire as I hope to get counties from across England to help make this a nationwide game.”
Pictured, Mac McKechnie, the founder of the first Walking Cricket side in Yorkshire.
One of the participants benefitting from the new sessions at Beeston, which have been running over the last month, is 100-year-old Mir Bostan who embodies the Walking Cricket spirit and passion.
The centenarian said Walking Cricket will play a part in helping him continue to lead an active, healthy and happy life.
Mir said: “I love playing Walking Cricket, quite simply my life has become significantly better since I joined.
“Exercise at my age is important, the cricket has helped me become fitter while reducing my pain – even my leg is better so I will keep playing for as long as possible because walking cricket makes me feel happy and healthy.”
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 at the Hamara Centre nearby.
Mir said: “The community at Beeston is beautiful, everyone at the Hamara Centre here at Beeston are very friendly with everyone helping each other regardless of their background – if it wasn’t for the Hamara centre, with the help of YCF, I would not be playing Walking Cricket or have the chance to become friends with so many wonderful people
“The Walking Cricket initiative has greatly improve my physical and mental wellbeing since it started, and to anyone thinking about joining, I would say just give it a go and see where it takes you.”
Pictured 100-year-old Mir Boston, taking part in the Walking Cricket sessions at Beeston.
Aftab Ahmed, 71, another participant from the Beeston Walking Cricket group, stressed how the initiative goes beyond just cricket.
He said: “cricket, in my opinion, plays only a small part of the experience.
“It gives me a chance to socialise with my friends and talk to new people, talking about interesting topics at the Hamara Centre after the game with tea and biscuits – that aspect is a huge incentive for me
‘Walking cricket is really important for older groups as it keeps them fit and active as well as improving their mental health.”
Nizam Din, 42, project leader for of the Older People Project, added: “After the pandemic, seeing the negative impacts the pandemic had on the elderly, I was inspired to help and do my part to ensure they are happy.
“Here at Beeston today there has been a great turn out, everyone seem very happy, and, for me personally, it gives me the opportunity to get out of the office and do some exercise
“It is great to see the difference in the participants, some of them struggled to wall before getting involved in walking cricket – they are reaping the benefits of being active, it has inspired true change in those involved
The cricket also brings people together, I have made lots of new friends and have been inspired by the participants positivity and enthusiasm.”
Pictured, the newly formed Walking Cricket group in Beeston.
Sohail Raz, Diverse Communities Manager at YCF, who helped co-ordinate the session, said: “It has been very rewarding to see people from different backgrounds come together in the comunity in Beeston, take part and enjoy it.
“If anyone is unsure about joining all I will say is come and give it a go and remember it is more than just cricket, the social element is as equally important.”
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