Busy schedule for disabled cricketers
November 2005 will see the heaviest ever schedule of international cricket for players with disabilities as three different England squads depart for winter tours.
The England Deaf squad will be in India for the Deaf Cricket World Cup, the England Blind team will tour Pakistan and the first international series for cricketers with learning difficulties takes place between England, hosts South Africa and Australia.
The England Deaf squad have already been working hard during coaching weekends at Derbyshire as they prepare for the Deaf Cricket World Cup.
The tournament takes place in India from November 14-28 and features eight teams, with England competing against Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand and South Africa.
The format will be a round robin of matches involving the eight teams in four venues around Lucknow. The final will take place in the KD Singh Babu Stadium on November 27.
The newly-formed Deaf Cricket International Federation (DCIF) is organising the series and Mike O'Mahony and his Deaf Cricket colleagues are busy making preparations for the trip.
Fresh from their Ashes triumph in 2004, the England Blind cricket team are now preparing to take on the world Blind Cricket champions, Pakistan, on their home territory.
In summer 2002 Pakistan beat England 3-1 in a memorable series in England before going on to win the World Cup in December of that year.
England are ranked third in the world by the World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC) following their Ashes success and are looking forward to the tour of Pakistan which will help their build-up towards the next Blind Cricket World Cup in 2006.
Further good news for Blind Cricketers is that the WBCC has now been recognised by the International Cricket Council.
Finally, cricketers with learning difficulties were given a boost when ECB received an invitation to send an England team to South Africa to play a tri-nations tournament in Cape Province in November.
Dr Geoff Smedley of UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability passed on two contacts from South Africa and Australia to ECB Disabilities Consultant, Roger Fuggle.
Roger was sent by ECB on a fact-finding trip to South Africa to watch the Annual Provincial Cricket tournament in Port Elizabeth at the end of April.
As a result of that visit, and Roger's positive report, a small planning team of Roger, Geoff Smedley, Ian Martin of Wales, Peter Edmondson of B.A.C.D. and coaches Bobby Denning and Ian Powell have begun the selection process to find and coach a squad of 15 players to travel to South Africa.
Cricket for the Intellectually Impaired is more advanced in Australia and South Africa than it is in the UK, but subject to funding and the availability of a strong England team, this first international series will go ahead.
In all these overseas tours, ECB has been very supportive and funding has been made available from Sport England towards flight and kit costs to help pay for the England teams.
England Deaf squad: Umesh Valjee (capt), Mike O'Mahoney, Paul Allen, Stefan Pichowski, Chris Hughes, Ben Young, Neil Pritchard, Peter Wood, Stephen George, Ed De Lucy, James Dixon, Matthew Everett, Mohammed Farooq, Darrell Sykes, Simon Lycett.
England Blind squad: Heindrich Swanepoel (capt), Keryn Seal, Bryn Reynolds, Miles Northwood, Andy Powers, Sam Murray, Andy Dalby-Welsh, Joe Harrison, Nathan Foy, Howard Greenhill, Matt Dean, Dave Townly, Luke Sugg, Dan Field.
England Learning Difficulties squad: Danny West, Lee Jay, Idris Saeed, Omar Aziz, Dave Lyons, Jonathan Simpson, Allun Hughes, John Taylor, Doug Randall, Ian Crumplin, Bilal Ali, Mark O'Brian, A.N. Other, A.N. Other, A.N. Other.