This has been a wonderful summer for sports fans: the Euros, the Olympics, the return of Wimbledon, the inauguration of the Hundred, the Paralympics, and crowning them all, the return of the Chelmsford interfaith cricket match.
This has become a tradition, and one in which I very much look forward to participating each year despite the aches and bruises that usually result.
The Chelmsford interfaith cricket match started a few years ago as a friendly – if one sided – game between teams representing Chelmsford’s Cathedral and Mosque. The Mosque have gone a little easier on us since then; the Cathedral even won a game or two. Through the efforts of logistical mastermind Sidra Naeem, and cricket fan and Cathedral Canon Ivor Moody, this became much more than a cricket match involving families, fellowship and considerable amounts of food. Chelmsford’s Hindu society joined in 2019.
Last Sunday, 15 August – by happy coincidence the last weekend of South Asian heritage month – saw the return of the interfaith tournament with all three sides coming together for a 10-over tri-series, notwithstanding players being ‘pinged’ as well as the usual challenge of scheduling with holidays, work and travel.
After a year of lockdowns and enforced distancing, it was wonderful to reunite with brothers and sisters from the Muslim and Hindu communities, both players and spectators, many of whom are friends from previous years. The three-match format gave more leisurely time to catch up, compare notes on life, kids and cricket … and share in a cross-cultural feast which possibly added more to our waistlines than 20 overs of fielding abated.
The highlight of the day for me was seeing lots of Christian, Muslim and Hindu children all playing together on the little playground as the teams battled it out on the pitch. And then, as the final result drew near in a close game between the Muslims and the Hindus, over 30 Muslim and Hindu families, all mixed up together, standing on the boundary cheering and shouting every run and every wicket! They are two powerful images which have stayed with me, and remind me of why we do this, and why it’s so important.
The result? Well, that’s not really the point…
But since you ask, plaudits this year to the Hindu Society who beat the Mosque team with four overs to spare, with the Cathedral team earning the much-coveted bronze medal position.