England Deaf eye Ashes history
England have a strong chance of winning the Deaf Ashes for the first time on this month’s tour of Australia, according to ECB national disability cricket manager Ian Martin.
Their hosts have never lost a Test and hence have held the May/Craven Trophy since it was first contested in the early 1990s.
However, England restricted them to a 0-0 draw in 2008 during the last series between the sides.
Martin believes his charges can go one better this time in the solitary three-day Test at Geelong Grammar School, near Melbourne, starting on Tuesday after wet weather put back Monday's original start.
“Prior to 2008 when the Ashes were held in England, Australia had only ever won Test matches,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“We played two against them and drew them both so we do feel as if we can get one over on them. It’s going to be very difficult going to Australia having to win whereas Australia can play for a draw and retain the Ashes.
“The onus is on us to take the game to them but we believe we’ve got the make-up of a side that can do that.”
Martin’s confidence springs from a talented squad captained by Umesh Valjee, who was in charge for the 2008 stalemate and will lead several others from that series.
“There’s a good core of the squad that were involved in the previous Ashes series and Umesh is a very experienced cricketer, a very talented cricketer, so it’s brilliant to have him around for this tour,” Martin said.
“We feel we’ve got the right mix of youth and experience - plenty of seasoned campaigners in terms of guys who’ve played in Ashes series before.
“A lot of the guys play Premier League cricket every weekend so they’re all playing a good standard of cricket outside of them being together with the England Deaf set-up.”
There are three newcomers in George Greenway, James Schofield and Michael Weathersby, whom Martin is sure are ready to face Australia - plus South Africa in the triangular limited-overs series that follows the Ashes.
“James is a very good cricketer. He played for Glamorgan Under-17s when he was a little bit younger so he’s a very talented guy,” he added.
“Michael has played a good standard of cricket in the South Wales leagues and George is one of the younger members of the squad so it’s going to be a massive experience for him.”
England have prepared as thoroughly as possible since last summer with a final get-together at Shrewsbury School in Shropshire before flying out last Sunday.
Two of the squad - Matthew Everett and Chris Hughes, who have been playing in Australia and New Zealand respectively this winter - joined the party Down Under.
“We’ve had monthly training sessions to get the guys together between the end of the season and actually going away,” Martin explained. “So they’ve been together every month since the end of the season and been put through their paces.
“We believe, in terms of the budget we’ve got available to us to look after the squad given they’re not professionals, that we’ve prepared them in the best way that we can given that we’re out of season and the Australians are in season.
“It would have been great if we could have got them together for a couple of weeks but they all work.
"Given that they need to take three weeks off work for the tour itself, trying to get any more time off work for their cricket is very, very difficult.”
The tourists will be guests at the MCG tomorrow when they will be involved in the opening ceremony prior to the senior men's first one-day international.
Martin, who is also rooting for England women to retain their urn this month, hopes being around some of Andrew Strauss’ Ashes-winners will inspire the deaf players.
“If part of that can rub off that can only help and, fingers crossed, the England women will do their job,” he said. “Come the middle of February hopefully we’ll have two more Ashes wins to celebrate.”