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Huge boost for disabled cricket

ECB Disabilities Consultant, Roger Fuggle, gives us a summer 2006 update on developments in disabled cricket

The past 12 months have seen successful advances in the development of cricket for people with disabilities.

  • The first ever international matches for cricketers with learning difficulties took place in South Africa in November 2005
  • A month later the England Deaf Cricketers reached the final of the Deaf Cricket World Cup at Lucknow in India.
  • England's Blind team played and won a short series of matches in Sri Lanka in January 2006.
  • Representatives of the England Disabled cricket teams were invited to Buckingham Palace to meet Her Royal Highness the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
  • The seventh County Championship for cricketers with physical and learning difficulties took place involving 12 County sides.
  • 40 Special Needs schools took part in the Table Cricket tournament for children with severe physical difficulties with the finals taking place at Lords.
  • The ECB Disability Management Committee is moving towards a re-stucturing of the management of the game to reflect the new regional structure for cricket.
  • A full programme of local and regional club cricket leagues and knock-out competitions for each class of disability have taken place; Blind, Deaf, Physical Disabilities and learning Difficulties.

In November 2005 an England team of cricketers with Learning Difficulties flew to South Africa to take part in the first ever international series against South Africa and Australia.

The series took place in Cape Province. Australia won the series but the England side showed steady improvement as their matches progressed. England will host the next series in June 2007.

A month later the England Deaf Cricket team took part in the Deaf Cricket World Cup at Lucknow in India. Nine teams from Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand, South Africa, Nepal and England took part in the competition, organised by the Deaf Cricket International Federation.

England reached the final after the immense satisfaction of beating Australia in the semi-final, the first time the Aussies had been defeated in 19 internationals. About 5,000 people watched the Indian team defeat England in the final.

Fresh from their Ashes triumph in 2004, the England Blind team were due to play World Blind Cricket Champions, Pakistan, in preparation for the Blind Cricket World Cup in 2006.

The earthquake in Islamabad put paid to those plans but a series against Sri Lanka was hastily arranged with England winning the three-match series 2-1.

Pakistan came to England in May for a test series and won 3-1 but the England team are confident of improving their chances in time for the World Cup in Islamabad in December 2006.

The ICC has now recognised the World Blind Cricket Council. Further good news for Blind Cricket. ECB were the major source of funding for all these international series.

In February, Disability Cricket received high recognition when the captains and team managers of the England Blind, Deaf and Learning Difficulties teams were presented to Her Majesty the Queen at a reception at Buckingham Palace for the England mens and womens senior teams after their Ashes triumphs.

At County cricket level, Warwickshire defeated Cheshire in the 7th County Championship final for cricketers with physical or learning difficulties held at The Hampshire Rosebowl. There are now 12 Counties taking part with more to come.

A full programme of matches between representative sides with physical and learning difficulties continue to take place each year involving regional teams and sides from England against Wales.

Most cricket for people with Disabilities is played outdoors and as closely as possible to the MCC Laws of the Game, but for some youngsters with severe physical difficulties a Table Top format of the Game was devised by Doug Williamson of Nottingham Trent University.

Launched six years ago, the game is now played in some 40 schools for children with special needs playing in regional tournaments which lead to the top eight sides taking part in the finals at the indoor school at Lords.

A new table-top format for children with learning difficulties; Target Cricket, has been devised and is being introduced to schools around the country.

Finally, there are changes taking place in the management of disability cricket which bode well for the future expansion of the game.

In 1998, the ECB brought together the charities organising disabled cricket to create a forum to co-ordinate initiatives to develop the game.

Charities representing blind cricket, deaf cricket, and cricket for players with learning and physical disabilities were invited to become involved and a five-year development plan was produced and implemented.

With the new structure in cricket and the launch of the “Building Partnerships” strategic plan, a new approach was needed to the management of the disabled game.

As a consequence, ECB has created the ECB Disabilities Management Committee involving, not only the disability charities but also people with an active role in developing the game.

Five boards will be appointed to manage the game at regional level, a mirror image of the main management structure of the game. These boards will involve representatives of charities involved in disabled cricket plus appropriate regional and sports partners and player representatives.

Working with the Regional Development Management structure for cricket, with County Boards, and focus clubs, the new structure will facilitate the growth of cricket for children with disabilities, provide a competitive structure and a pathway for young players to progress to the highest levels of the game that their abilities will allow.

The regional boards will be expected to plan, deliver, measure and evaluate programmes to develop the disabled game "from playground to Test arena".

However such plans need both human and financial resources and funding continues to be a major difficulty in the development of the disabled game.

ECB are the major source of funds with much welcome support from The Lords Taverners, The Primary Club, Sightsavers International and many others.

An opportunity exists for a major sponsor to demonstrate commitment to the Community through the long-term funding of disability cricket at one or all of its levels.