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Development scope for disability cricket is huge

Posted in Disability Cricket

Well I’ve been in post for three months as National Disability Cricket Manager and the ECB have given me my own blog!

This is great news for me as it gives me a platform to do what I do best, namely talk about disability cricket and hopefully keep you all up to speed with developments as they happen across all the different impairment groups.

I guess I should start by introducing myself to those who haven’t previously met me through my involvement with BACD and originally through the Welsh disabled cricket team.

My name is Ian Martin and I’ve been actively involved in disability sport and cricket in particular for over eight years. After leaving school I joined the Royal Navy and spent eight years sailing the seas and more importantly playing cricket on every continent in the world (except for Antarctica where the penguins were reluctant to wear whites!).

I saw active service during the first Gulf War and worked with the US Navy at one of their bases in Scotland. What I didn’t know was that I had an inherited muscle wasting disease and following an operation on my ankle after a football injury the condition was diagnosed when my legs failed to respond to physiotherapy.

Without putting too fine a point on it this news came as a bit of a blow. I had deteriorated from being a fighting fit serviceman to being unable to run or walk any sort of distance in less than 12 months and whilst there was a suspicion of the deterioration being down to Gulf War Syndrome, the diagnosis of the disease meant that I would have had a battle to prove anything.

So at the ripe old age of 24 the Navy said goodbye and I needed to look for a new career.

I gave up playing mainstream cricket at around the same time – I was no longer able to compete. My eyes, hands and head knew what shot I wanted to play but my feet couldn’t get me there; having said that I guess there are plenty of mainstream cricketers with that problem!

I couldn’t play without using a runner so I just decided to avoid the frustration completely and walk (well, limp) away from the game.

That was until May 2000 when I saw an advert in a paper where a team was looking for cricketers who had a disability. Without exaggerating, that advert changed my life and has led to me being in the position where I am writing this blog.

I ended up playing for the Wales disabled cricket team, run at the time by a fantastic guy named Paul Cartwright. Within a year I had become secretary for the Welsh Association for Cricketers with a Disability and so began a journey that changed my life.

Getting involved in disability sport and cricket in particular made me come to terms with my limitations and accept that I had a disability and it gave me the strength to make the transition to becoming a wheelchair user as and when the weakness in my legs warrants it.

I was left with a choice that if I didn’t use the wheelchair I couldn’t play cricket. I firmly believe that if involvement in sport can have benefited me in this way then it can do the same for other people.

I was able to secure over £8000 in sponsorship over the years that I worked with the WACD. My work also led me to receive many awards, most notably Welsh Sports Administrator of the Year in 2006 and an OSCA nomination in 2005.

It also enabled me to gain valuable experience in developing disability sport, which in turn enabled me to find employment as a community disability sport development officer with the very successful Disability Sport Wales team.

I gained experience of disability sport development for all impairment groups across many different sports and gained more experience of trying to find funding for such development - not always easy as you may know.

I became a Director on the Board of the Federation of Disability Sport Wales and went on to be Chairman of the British Association for Cricketers with Disabilities.

I served on the ECB’s Disability Management Committee and was the Team Manager for the England Learning Disability Cricket team during their Tri Nations Tournaments in South Africa in 2005 and England in 2007.

I secured the funding for a coach education programme in Trinidad and Tobago and led a team of four coaches to deliver a disability cricket specific programme to introduce the disabled game to the Caribbean in May 2007.

Hopefully these experiences will help me as I take on what is a very new and challenging post at ECB. I must add that the path has been well paved for me by ECB’s former disability consultant Roger Fuggle. For those who didn’t know Roger it is fair to say that all cricketers with a disability owe him a lot for the work that he put in fighting their cause over many years.

Cricket is not traditionally seen as one of the higher profile disability sports when compared to Wheelchair Basketball or athletics. I aim to change that.

The scope for the development of disability cricket is huge, not just in this country but globally. Cricket is one of the most popular sports in terms of participation worldwide and opportunities for participation in disability cricket in this country have never been better.

ECB are the world leaders in disability cricket development and whilst other countries are playing catch up, our players demand more. I really hope that by the time that I move on we will have established international competition for our physically disabled players and I can assure those players that ECB will push that cause whenever the opportunity arises.

I think I’ve probably go on long enough in this first blog so thank you for taking the time to read it, hopefully you will have a better idea about who I am and my passion for disability cricket. Please visit the site regularly as I do intend to update the blog on a regular basis.

If you have any comments or suggestions please email them to disabilitycricket@ecb.co.uk

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