THERE are cheers and high-fives all around as 94-year-old Mary Walker scores her first ‘runs’ after going in to bat in a brand-new version of cricket developed for older, less mobile players.
Mary, who is registered blind, was the proud team captain of her winning ‘Yorkshire’ side in a Clock Cricket match, a new sporting concept that is putting a different spin on the centuries’ old game.
Former munitions worker Mary, along with fellow team members including Donald – who is well on his way to becoming a 100 years-old and not out – are residents at Abbeyfield The Dales’ award-winning Fern House in Bingley, West Yorkshire. They were among the first in the world to play Clock Cricket which has been developed to enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of older people living in care homes.
Mary said: “It’s been absolutely wonderful. I’ve enjoyed everything. I’ve never played cricket, but my Dad always loved it. I didn’t think for a minute I could throw or hit a ball – I am registered blind. I’ve always been the sort of person to have a go at everything – I don’t just want to be sitting around. I’ve never been a team captain either – wait until my kids find out!”.
The game, which is the brainchild of Richard Hill, the England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) Disability Cricket Support Officer, is played indoors using a sponge ball and a foam bat. A social, fun and competitive pursuit aimed at encouraging the less able or active to take up a physical activity or try something new, players sit in a circle and face four balls each to determine the winner.
Independent of but supported by the ECB, Clock Cricket has been trialled to great acclaim in Richard’s home county of Hertfordshire. Now older people in Yorkshire where there has long-been a strong cricketing tradition, are being bowled over by the game and are helping drive it forward across the UK.
Richard said: “If the measure of a project’s success is based around people laughing and enjoying themselves then we’ve certainly scored across all areas, while the number of rosy cheeks you can count up across the room suggests it’s been a bit of a work out for people too. It’s a winner all round.
“Clock Cricket works on so many levels. We can engage with people who potentially suffer as much from loneliness as much as lack of physical activity. It allows people to have a laugh together, form relationships and involves people interacting together instead of sitting in their rooms. It can be played by both men and women, helps break down social barriers and promotes a sense of team spirit and competitiveness. Physically, it can help to improve hand-eye coordination, dexterity and body strength and gets you moving.”
He added: “There is a bit of naughtiness to it too. As a child you are told not to play ball games indoors. But Clock Cricket is designed to be played inside and you get the ball being hit off the ceiling, off the walls, off the furniture and quite often, off each other. But because it’s made of sponge, no-one gets hurt and everyone has a laugh.
“I am very excited to see Clock Cricket being launched at Fern House and that Abbeyfield have the foresight to take up this initiative and will hopefully be rolling it out across their family of houses and homes. The more people we can get playing Clock Cricket and the more people we can encourage to be physically active, the better.”
The man responsible for bringing Clock Cricket to Abbeyfield The Dales’ Fern House is Abdul A Ravat. The Abbeyfield Society’s Head of Development and Relationships, a player with the Mount Cricket Club, a Muslim team based in Batley, which hit the headlines in 2015 when they participated in a unique inter-faith fixture against the Vatican’s cricket team in Rome, and then back in Yorkshire the following year.
“Clock Cricket is a simple adaptation of a traditional game that is accessible for people with a variety of needs and abilities. It is also fun, competitive, engaging, and in a county like Yorkshire where cricket is virtually a religion, it helps evoke memories, whether of playing the game itself or being involved through loved ones as a spouse, parent or grandparent.
“As soon as I heard about Clock Cricket I knew we had to introduce it to both The Abbeyfield Society and to Yorkshire. I am thrilled that residents at Fern House were among the first to experience the joy of playing it, and I very much hope it will be rolled out not just to other care homes in the Abbeyfield family across the county, but the UK too, and potentially internationally in cricket loving countries such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand, where Abbeyfield Member Societies also have homes.”
“The introduction of Clock Cricket at Abbeyfield was a hugely successful and fun event. The residents at Fern House really got into the spirit and had lots of fun. We now have a wonderful opportunity to form effective partnerships and incorporate Clock Cricket into the Abbeyfield family as part of our ethos of alleviating loneliness in older people and to enrich their lives.
“I would like to thank both the ECB and The Yorkshire Cricket Foundation as well as all our staff and volunteers at Fern House.”
Beth Cook, Health and Wellbeing Manager at the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation – the charity and community arm of Yorkshire County Cricket Club said: “Clock Cricket is exactly the kind of project we want to be involved in. We are very much focused on people’s health and well-being, especially from a social angle.
“Sport is something that while not everyone will necessarily have played, will have been a part of their lives, whether going to see their favourite team or watch their children taking part in. Getting everyone in a room together, reminiscing about their memories, sharing stories and seeing everyone’s smiles is exactly why we want to deliver cricket in these kinds of communities.”
Nicola Taylor, Head of Care Services for Abbeyfield The Dales, hopes Clock Cricket will not only encourage residents to remain physically active but will continue to help break down social isolation among older people.
She said: “We are all about the opportunities we can give our residents to take part in meaningful activities and Clock Cricket delivered that in the bucket load. This truly was a fantastic day for our residents. We had people joining in today who have shown little interest in any other activities. But they came back for a second session and in fact they became very competitive!
“We are very passionate about giving our residents meaningful activities and opportunities to come together that will improve their mental and physical wellbeing. We see Clock Cricket as a great means of achieving this.”
Clock Cricket will be rolled out to not just Abbeyfield The Dales’ fellow Yorkshire independent living and care homes, but across the Abbeyfield charity’s 500 other houses in the UK and overseas.