Despite the many colourful characters that play the game, cricket is still largely perceived as a conservative and highly traditional sport. As such, you might not be aware of the adapted variations played by disabled people. With the help of the ECB, we’ve spoken with three England Captains, all leading different teams of players in slightly different forms of cricket.
Iain Nairn is the England Physical Disability Cricket captain. He started by describing the sorts of players that he has in his side…
I’m a leg amputee. We’ve got some guys with cerebral palsy, some guys with clubbed feet and other mobility impairments and then we’ve got the guys who are arm amputees, or have arm disﬁgurements. We’re proﬁled (classiﬁed) around how our disability affects our play. So, can you bend down and pick a ball up? Can you catch a ball with two hands? – things like that. The proﬁling is still being worked on.
What differences might a spectator see from the original format game?
With our format as the England team, you would hopefully see no difference whatsoever.
That is the beauty of cricket.
The County Championship has a nineman softball competition as well as an 11-man hard ball competition.
So there is that structure in place…
There is an absolute pathway from getting involved in the game from the taster sessions that most of the ﬁrst class counties run. One of the big challenges is getting disabled people to ﬁnd cricket. When you take cricket to them it is dead easy and people love it.
What does cricket give to disabled people?
Cricket is the most social game; for half of the game there are nine of your 11 sat in the dressing room having a chat.
When you bat in cricket it’s two versus 11, you could argue that it’s one versus 11 and just that resilience that you build through the game is something that we, as disabled people, need to strengthen in our day-to-day lives. I think it is very easy to not do something because you think you might not be able to do it to a certain level…Actually, with cricket, there’s no reason why you can’t do something because we can always ﬁnd that way for you to get involved.
Matthew Dean is the England Visually Impaired Cricket captain and explained how VI players deal with a ball sport…
The bowling is underarm and the ball is made out of hard plastic with ball bearings in it so it makes a sound when it moves. The team is made up of 11 players, and it’s played outside on a normal sized cricket pitch. At least four of the players have to be totally blind. The other players can be partially sighted and have a higher level of sight than the rest of the team.
The bowler will ask the batsman if he’s ready – and if he’s ready, the batsman will say ‘Yes’ and as the bowler releases the ball he will say ‘Play’. It’s much more of an audible game.
Indoor halls are not large enough and they echo. We play outdoors but you could have a main road behind a pitch, there could be a strong breeze. Recently we played a World Cup in India. There were 20,000 people there and the Indian fans aren’t known for being quiet! It was an amazing challenge and it did cause issues for the game but the crowd did behave themselves.
What kind of structures are set up within VI cricket?
What’s unique about blind cricket in England is that there are two formats of the game. Domestically, the game is played slightly differently. The bowling is overarm and with a volleyball sized ball. VI cricket has grown from that, so we kind of go hand-in-hand through the pathway. We have an academy where players are judged to be someone that can actually progress within the international game and then they can get extra coaching to help them on their way.
Paul Allen is the England Deaf Cricket captain. He explained the range of players in his team.
Deafness ranges from somebody like myself to somebody that is profoundly Deaf and only communicates through sign language.
There is no real difference in how the sport is played. The biggest challenge that we will always have is in communication. You’ve got somebody like myself, who up until a year ago, when I ﬁrst started, didn’t know any sign language. Some of our players still don’t know sign language because they were brought up in the ‘mainstream world’ and they’ve never seen themselves as Deaf before. We have an interpreter but that’s all well and good off the ﬁeld, but once you’re on the ﬁeld, there are weird and wonderful ways to do it; quite a lot of arm waving and stuff like that.
Is there a good structure in Deaf cricket?
Yes, there is a domestic competition going on at the minute: the County Championship. A lot of players play mainstream cricket and it’s about trying to catch them into giving something back to Deaf domestic cricket. There’s so many players out there.
The England Cricket Association for the Deaf (ECAD) looks at the grass roots side of things. Last year they had around 300 players registered.
The England Cricket Association for the Deaf www.englanddeafcricket.co.uk
Blind Cricket England & Wales www.bcew.co.uk
British Association for Cricketers with Disabilities www.bacd.co.uk
England and Wales Cricket Board www.ecb.co.uk/england/disability