A busy winter ahead
Posted in Disability Cricket
I was asked the other day, not for the first time, whether my job quietened down once the season was over.
It was a reasonable question asked by someone who is not familiar with cricket development. The answer, of course, is not at all. If anything it is busier during the winter as we review the previous season and prepare for winter tours and for the following season.
We use the winter to look at what went well during the summer and where we can improve.
We are moving through a period of change within disability cricket. There is little doubt that significant improvements have been made over the last few years in terms of increased opportunities for disabled people to get involved in our sport.
This has been recognized by RADAR, the human rights and equalities organization who have shortlisted ECB for their Sports Award at the RADAR Human Rights People of the Year Awards taking place at the end of the month. However, we can by no means rest on our laurels. The job is not done.
One of the challenges that we have in cricket is changing the perception amongst some disabled people that cricket does not provide a level playing field for all.
The best illustration of this is the batsman using a wheelchair facing up to a bowler who has a learning disability and who is fully mobile and capable of sending the ball down at speed.
Now there are some wheelchair players, and I would include myself when I played, who enjoy that challenge. However, there are many others who are lost to cricket because they do not see that scenario as being a level playing field.
I would agree with those who say that there is something that needs to change when we have physically disabled people thinking that they are too disabled to play disabled cricket. We have to find the balance but it won't happen overnight.
Of course, on the other side of the coin, we have those with disabilities who play mainstream cricket and don't feel the need to get involved in disability cricket.
That is entirely their choice and good luck to all of them if they are playing at a level that is appropriate for them.
What I would ask of them is to give some thought to what role they could play as role models and ambassadors for those who cope less well with similar disabilities.
Opportunities to access cricket for those with disabilities have never been greater. One county in the south east alone had over 1,200 children with disabilities pass through it's Chance 2 Shine programme this summer.
At the top end of the game our first ever ECB Performance Squad for cricketers with Physical Disabilities will get together at Loughborough in December - a further sign that things are changing and that our structures are improving.
What we have to do is make our sport a credible disability sport in the process.
Change in any organisation can be a difficult journey but we need to ensure that the sport we pass on to future generations of disabled people gives them a better experience and opportunities in better facilities than we had.