Cricket helping beat the waiting game blues for asylum seekers

As most clubs hang up the pads for winter, the All Nations Cricket team is just getting started.

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Operating year round, the majority of the team’s players are in Australia currently seeking asylum.

Founder of the program Abdul Razzaq said each player has a tale of hardship, but united in cricket, they don’t face it alone.

“We are here together in one unit. Whatever their culture, whatever their religion, we are together like a family.”

Cricket tournament participants, among them, the All Nations Cricket teamSBS

Abdul Razzaq started the team with Monash Health and Cricket Victoria in 2015, and continues to run it voluntarily.

An asylum seeker from Pakistan, Mr Razzaq wanted to create a space and an opportunity to socialise for new arrivals at risk of depression, as they wait for answers on asylum applications.

“All those asylum seekers who are like me, I know it’s a big anxiety and stress like if you don’t have work rights or Medicare, and especially if you lose your income support.”

He said the cricket club can be the only inroad to the wider Australian community for many of the players.

Cricket Victoria multicultural participation coordinator Hussain Hanif, said a sport like cricket is uniquely placed to help bridge a cultural gap for many asylum seekers in Australia.

“I think it is integration at the end of the day, creating those inclusive spaces where all of us can integrate and use sport as a vehicle.”

Playing indoor cricket tournamentSBS

The All Nations Cricket program runs throughout the winter, when social isolation and depression for asylum seekers can be at its worst.

The group trains indoors during the colder months, with 60-80 players getting involved.

Community development co-ordinator at Monash Health, Rob Koch said while training and competition provides a bit of fun, it’s much more than just a game for the participants.

“It’s giving them the opportunity to do something they do know, they can play cricket. It’s allowing them to shine when everything else seems to be dark.”

Mr Koch said the All Nations Cricket club also helps to direct players into mainstream local clubs.

“Some of the fellows come in to our program and then get signed up for a local club and move through the ranks to get to even turf one.”

In the summer, the group trains near the Dandenong train station in Melbourne’s east to attract new members as they walk past.

Mr Razzaq said while the program is free, the benefits of participation can be priceless.

“Please come out. You can be the best in the community you can be a role model. So please come out and make a difference. Don’t give up, give back.”