A MAJOR new cricket facility has been opened to get more people from different communities across Bradford involved in the sport.

The Carlton Cricket Academy is a partnership between Carlton Bolling School and Bradford Salem Athletic Cricket Club, and was officially opened yesterday.

It will see the cricket club use sports facilities at the school, which was recently completely re-built, including its large sports hall. Work is also underway creating new, state of the art sports pitches at the school.

It means the facilities will be used by the school during the day and for cricket training on evenings and weekends.

The club hope that it will lead to an increase people getting involved with the sport from the school and the wider community.

The school already has a strong link with the sport - Carlton Bolling girls squad picked up the team award at the Inspirational Awards for Women ceremony last year, just one day after they were pipped to being named national champions by just two runs at a tournament at the famous Lord’s Cricket Ground.

It is just one of a string of accolades the team, made up of mostly Muslim girls, has won in their short history. It has also been praised in many quarters for breaking down cultural barriers that often discourage Muslim girls from taking part in sports.

The academy includes top of the line equipment, including an automatic bowling machine. The first sessions will be held on Sunday.

Head Adrian Kneeshaw said of the academy: “We hope this will will lead to more people adopting healthy lifestyles, develop a champion mindset that will lead to champion players, and make the school the centre of the community.

“As as school we found the club had exactly the same vision as us.”

Arif Mehmood, treasurer of Bradford Salem - a club which dates back over 100 years, said: “As a club we had quite meagre resources, but in recent years we went to having four adult teams and three kids teams that have been very successful.

“We have built a strong relationship with the school, Adrian has some great ideas.

“This will definitely help more people in the area get involved in cricket.”

He said children as young as four could take part in the academy, and there were several top local coaches ready to train the next generation of cricket stars. He added: “This is not about the cream of the crop, we want everyone to engage and get involved.”

Qasim Khan, chairman of the club, said “We want to engage all parts of the community, we don’t just want to be a cricket club. It is about attracting people from different communities and bringing them together.”

As well as providing a new sports facility for the area, it is hoped that pupils at the school will become more engaged in the sport. PE teacher Zaheer Jaffary, who set up the girls team at the school, said: “We want to get kids in here, boys and girls, and get them involved and break into the county system. The facilities we have here will really help. There is nothing in the area like this, schools have facilities but this is for use by the woder community.”

Some big names in the cricket world sent video messages to the school yesterday to voice their support for the academy. Yasir Shah, Pakistan International Cricketer and considered by some to be the best leg spinner in the world, sent the school a video message saying: “Congratulations to Carlton Bolling and Salem Athletic for compassion to help the youngsters and community through sports.

“I appreciate the combined efforts will have a great impact on the community. My support will always be there, see you soon Inshallah.”

And Pakistani Australian cricketer Fawad Ahmed sent a message saying congratulating the school and club for “working with the youngsters and community to promote a healthy environment through sports.

“It is really good for the community and will have a massive impact on youngsters. My support is always with you guys.”

He said he hoped to visit the club and the new facility in the summer.

Councillor Imran Khan, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Education, Employment and Skills said: “The school has a strong track record of promoting sport both for its pupils and its local community.

“Carlton Bolling has already established very successful cricket teams and I look forward to many more talented players coming through as young people make the most of this excellent facility.

“Sport can be an excellent way of not only keeping healthy but also of building young people’s confidence and getting them to understand the rewards of hard work.

“I think Carlton Bolling’s work is a great example of this, and as we have seen from their recent outstanding Ofsted report, the school is getting great results on and off the pitch.”