Zohra, Afzal and their family at  the Dementia Friendly Match between the Surrey and Kent cricket teams at the Oval

Cricket is a lifeline for my husband with dementia

Zohra's husband, Afzal, has vascular dementia. He's also a huge cricket fan. Here, Zohra describes how important the sport continues to be for them both, and why they think dementia research is the key to a better future for those affected.

My husband, Afzal, first had a diagnosis of young-onset dementia in 1988, while in his early 50s.

Just one year later, he had to take an early retirement because the Medical Defence Union would not insure him, and doctors cannot practice without being a member of a union.  

Afzal sought an initial diagnosis because he was seeing patients in the morning but by the afternoon could not remember who he’d seen.

He was then diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2014.

Afzal wearing a suit, standing in his hallway

Afzal had a long career as a GP before his diagnosis

A passion for cricket from a young age

Afzal was a keen cricketer during his university days in Pakistan, where he studied medicine. He has been playing cricket here, in England, since 1963 and kept going until he turned 70. 

He even helped set up a cricket team with the other medics and staff in the hospital where he worked, which was in Peterborough.

They called themselves ‘The Grim Reapers’, and Afzal was a wicketkeeper and batsmen.

Cricket is a lifeline

We have Bookham Cricket Club behind our house and pre-covid and lockdowns, we were both scorers for them.  

Although, Afzal’s attention span wasn’t up to scoring the entire match, so he would sit there for long periods while I did it.  

The sport has been a lifelong passion of his!

Dealing with stigma in our community 

There is a stigma against anything connected with issues of the brain in the South Asian community, as their attitudes can be a little bit Victorian.  

To us, dementia is not an issue which should be hidden away and swept under the carpet. 

The Asian community needs to catch up on this.

Cricket should be unforgettable

Day three of the Fifth Men’s Test on the 29 July will be dedicated to Alzheimer’s Society for the first time.

Learn more

Afzal often tries to hide the fact he has it and it is probably why he avoids society.

Before we attended the Dementia Friendly Match between Surrey and Kent at the Oval in June last year, I cannot remember when my husband last went to the cinema or a sports stadium.

It was probably 25 years ago as going out is very difficult.

A photo of Afzal cooking in the kitchen next to a photo of Afzal eating what he has made in the dining room

Going out can be difficult for Afzal, who often tries to hide his dementia

The importance of dementia research 

Afzal is part of a dementia research programme run by Imperial College (part of the UK Dementia Research Institute) called Time for Dementia.

This programme is designed to create a new generation of healthcare professionals who are more aware and understanding of dementia.  

Monitors have been set up in our home to look at changes in behaviour and sleep patterns in those with dementia.

I think research is so important. I know our work won’t help us, but it is a good thing to try and help those who come afterwards.

 A photo of Zohra and Afzal in their living room, and another photo of Afzal doing some gardening

Zohra and Afzal are using their experiences to aid vital dementia research


Great cricket should be unforgettable. But for thousands of people living with dementia, sadly this isn’t the case.

By donating to Alzheimer’s Society, you will be making a huge difference to the lives of people living with dementia, funding life-changing support and pioneering research.

Help us be there for people like Zohra and Afzal


My 95 year old mother had Alzheimers for 9 years.We lost her on a daily basis due to her confusion, refusal of all help and her stubborn unrelenting attitude. Mother was offered Medication in 2014 when first diagnosed. We declined, thinking that in her condition, she would refuse or forget to take it. As the years progressed, mother had many sets of carers, a care package and Social Services intervention. She died peacefully in a care Home in December 2022. Mother had never taken medication in her whole life and I’m sure she would have been reluctant to start at this point, even though it sounds promising. Best of luck to those who try it.
Thank you Dr Afzal for all you have given and done for others during your career, as well as all the good that you continue to do by participating in research. Thank you, too, Mrs Zohar, for all the good you also do in both participating in & raising awareness of the need for research into this tragic illness that affects so many families. Acknowledging that there remains an unnecessary and burdensome stigma attached to the diagnosis amongst some communities can only help to eventually dispel this. We wish you and your family well.
Hi i. dont no if I have the illnes or not but my family ferends seam to talk about it but we shall see
I’d like that!