The nights may be drawing in and winter starting to bite, but cricket lovers in Leeds can still get their kicks on a weekly basis.
An indoor league has seen its popularity soar recently, with a big uptake in the amount of people getting involved.
We originally started with eight teams but it’s grown over the past few weeks, through interest and word of mouth. It demonstrates that people do want to play in winter and that there is the demand here.Kendal James, Diverse Community Lead for the YCF
The Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF) is the official charity and community arm of Yorkshire County Cricket Club.
The charity runs various initiatives across the region but its indoor league is proving to be particularly fruitful.
The league sees teams take part in weekly matches each Monday night over the course of nine weeks.
Roundhay School hosts the sessions, which offer affordable and accessible competition to people in and around the area to anyone aged 16 and over.
The sessions are overseen by Kendal James, who is Diverse Community Lead for the YCF.
“We are trying to make a cricket league that is not just accessible, but affordable,” she told the YEP.
“A lot of the players tend to play at Roundhay Park in the summer and then, during the winter, it dies down, hence us putting on this league.
“I know certain indoor leagues elsewhere in Leeds that charged so much and people just weren’t willing or able to pay £5 or £10 a game. It’s quite an expense.
“We charge £2 for three hours because it’s run by volunteers, who oversee it and umpire it. The YCF paid for two coaches to do their Level 2 coaching qualification and so in return they give back hours to us through this league.”
The practical nature of the league combined with the small cost has seen numbers increase thanks to word of mouth lately.
“We’ve got 12 teams signed up now,” said Kendal.
“We originally started with eight teams but it’s grown over the past few weeks, through interest and word of mouth.
“It demonstrates that people do want to play in winter and that there is the demand here.”
In terms of attracting new players, Kendal says that the mixture of abilities on display helps in that regard.
The demographic of the participants is also another important part of the league.
Kendal added: “The ability of players is varied, with street cricketers mixed with players of a good standard so it’s a good mix.
“We’re also bringing communities together through the power of cricket, bringing people together that would not necessarily meet or mingle day to day.
“People will play in winter if they have the opportunity to do so.
“One of the teams we have is from Wakefield, so it shows people will travel if they feel it’s worth the effort.”
There are variants in the rules of indoor cricket, with this particular league insisting on six-a-side teams.
Owing to the set-up of the indoor arena, players are awarded six runs for hitting the back wall without the ball bouncing, four if it does.
Depending on the number of teams participating, games can be as long as 16 overs per side.
One of the many players that takes part in the weekly league is Mustafak Din, captain of the Super Hunters team.
He says the simplicity of the sessions are what keeps him coming back each week and that it makes a nice alternative to the cut and thrust of summer cricket.
He said: “It’s a convenient league and is also a good way to stay in shape and form for the summer cricket.
“You just turn up and play – there’s no stress or headaches involved, just fun.”
With a high-profile year of cricket on the horizon for Leeds next year – the World Cup and the Ashes Test series are going to be staged at Yorkshire’s Emerald Headingley ground – the league looks set to go from strength to strength.
Kendal added: “With the Cricket World Cup and also the Ashes coming to Leeds next year, there’s going to be a huge buzz around the sport.
“There’s also going to be more investment in it as a result of that.
“It can only be a positive in terms of getting everyone talking about cricket.”
Name: Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF) Indoor League
Based: Roundhay School, Old Park Road, Leeds LS8 1ND
Times: Mondays, 6-9pm
Get involved: Visit the website yorkshirecricketfoundation.com for more info, or alternatively you can email email@example.com.