How a Hawthorn church hall became a cricket club
A church hall might seem an unlikely venue for an indoor cricket pitch. But for Pete Horsford, a pastor at St. Columb’s Anglican Church in Hawthorn, it was the perfect place for Indian students to practice their game during a period of community tension in 2010. Nearly eight years on, that legacy is still well and truly alive.
Located across from Swinburne University, which hosts a number of Indian international students, Pete sought to help the community and he turned a 130-year-old church hall into indoor cricket facilities.
“Swinburne was recruiting Indian students heavily but there was this anxiety amongst the community,” he said.
Pete saw the struggles people were facing as an opportunity to bring the Indian and Sri Lankan community together via cricket – a sport that is wildly popular in their home countries.
“I wanted to give them a welcoming and safe place to play cricket.”
“It’s also a community that people want to belong to, and they want to come somewhere and see their friends and feel like they can come and stay a long time instead of just coming, playing a game and leaving,” said Pete.
There are now four men’s leagues, one women’s league and between 30-40 teams in total.
“It very quickly became a five-night-a-week 20-20 competition,” he said.
A cricket lover himself, Pete thought the old church hall was perfect for cricket and a great way to foster a positive environment and community atmosphere.
“The building has fabulous old architecture and people come in expecting to see a church, but they get a cricket pitch instead, which makes it interesting.”
“I always knew that small and unusual spaces could be really good for cricket and the space struck me as great for indoor sport.”
As an initiative of St. Columb’s, the cricket club welcomes all people regardless of religion.
“As a church, we feel it is important to love people as they turn up, whoever they are.”
“People really feel that they belong, and we are so accepting,” said Pete.
The club now offers innovative features such as live streaming of matches and decision review system (DRS). Organisers are thankful for the volunteers, from both the church and cricket community, who have come together to make it all possible.
“Our volunteers are people from both communities and even for those that don’t play, turning up and contributing is significant to people.”
“I would like to keep what we have going and continually build those relationships that have been made,” he said.