England blind ready for Pakistan test
National disability cricket manager Ian Martin insists the England blind team are in the best possible shape and ready to cause an upset against world champions Pakistan - despite not having played a competitive series since December 2008.
England blind face Pakistan tomorrow in a Twenty20 clash, which will be followed by three one-day internationals on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday - all in Sharjah.
The odds may appear to be against England. They have not played a competitive series since winning the Ashes in Australia 16 months ago and face a Pakistan side that won the World Cup in 2006 and can call upon several semi-professional players.
But, despite his players all being amateur, Martin maintains their preparations for the tour have been very positive, and he is optimistic they can cause an upset.
“Pakistan are a very, very strong side,” he told ecb.co.uk. “They get together a lot more often than we do and some of their players are paid. So they are virtually professional players.
“The challenge has been to make sure that our players are prepared both from a playing point and psychologically to go out to Sharjah and give Pakistan a good series.
“As an England blind cricket side, these guys have been prepared as well as any other side in the past.
“We are never going to be in better shape to go out there and win a series as we are for this one.”
Both sides will be particularly eager to get the series under way after Pakistan’s intended tour of England last summer was cancelled due to visa problems.
“What was disappointing was that we’d come of the back of the Ashes series, having beaten Australia in Australia quite convincingly,” said Martin.
“The guys had come home with a load of confidence, feeling almost invincible, and looking forward to playing Pakistan.
“They were all ready and prepared for the series at home last summer and obviously it was a bit disappointing that it had to be postponed.
“So getting this series on has been a priority - just to get these guys some cricket.”
Martin admits the cancellation of last summer’s series may have sapped some of the momentum gained from the Ashes, but he insists his players have shown great commitment to attend regular training sessions in the run up to this series.
Among England’s key players will be captain Matt Dean - “a very consistent cricketer and very good batsman”, according to Martin - 19-year-old Ashes hero Luke Sugg - “a very talented cricketer” - and current ECB disability player of the year Nathan Foy.
“If Nathan fires he tends to bring the rest of the side with him, but we don’t want to put too much pressure on his shoulders because there are 10 others who have to contribute as well,” Martin said.
With a series against India pencilled into the calendar for August, a series against the world champions will be an important measure of their current standing in world blind cricket.