Edgar Herridge has come a long way in 15 years. A journey that began in 2008 as a volunteer coach with Somerset Disabled Cricket Club – founded in 1997, but back then one of only 20 or so in the country – has been made in tandem with the rapid development of the disability game.
Senior national disabilities manager since October 2022, the landscape Edgar surveys now – a thriving domestic circuit offering cricket either in a recreational, volunteering and, increasingly, professional capacity – is one he is rightly proud of helping to produce.
And if the Disability Premier League (DPL) represents the domestic pinnacle, for Edgar and those beavering away behind the scenes it is merely “the fantastic shop window” – a headline amid myriad stories on a pathway walked with an increasingly sure tread by more people each passing year.
By way of illustration, Edgar talks not about last year’s televised final on Sky, but a game a week later. “I was lucky enough to be at the D40 Pursuit final, two rungs down the domestic ladder if you like,” he says. “The standard of cricket we were watching just blew me away – it was really high.”
For Edgar, it’s proof that the eye-catching nature of the DPL, the gateway to greater mainstream exposure, offers a double whammy. Those who dream of jousting with the cream of the nation’s disability players can use it as the proverbial motivational carrot. Those who, back in 2008 might not even have had anywhere to play in what Edgar calls a ‘postcode lottery’, can now look at cricket and think: ‘that’s a game for me’.
The last phrase is the clincher, the driver for Edgar and those like him – there are many of them out there – whose lives are dedicated to growing the game. And, by association, the people who play it. One of the joys of the DPL’s success has been the spike in interest. “Whether that reached us through our central email@example.com, or anecdotally, with county cricket boards reporting more people coming along to sessions, or enquiring about them – that’s awesome,” Edgar says.
“I think in the pantheon of disability sports, cricket’s still one of the best-kept secrets. I just wish more people knew, realised what cricket can do, what it can help you achieve.
“Because we don’t have that four-year cycle of Paralympic exposure, people just don’t realise that it is one of the most-inclusive sports; changeable and adaptable in so many ways – you can walk or run between the wickets; bowl under or overarm from 18 yards or 11, if that’s more suitable to your needs.”
The growth of Disability Cricket Champion Clubs up and down the country – there are currently around 120, but Edgar is always striving to add more – has made the game more accessible.
The push for a disability lead officer in every county is nearing fruition a year ahead of schedule and while there’s plenty to do yet, Edgar feels the game is in a good spot.
“The next five years is about making sure that we support that delivery network – making sure the offer is right in every county,” he says. “We’re a great patchwork of a nation – we have rural and urban counties, some with a deluge of cricket facilities and some comparatively sparse.
“We need to make sure in the next five years that wherever you live, if you have a disability, you can access the right format of cricket for you.”
“We want a domestic pathway built off the DPL that gives everyone the opportunity to be the best they can be in the game, allowing individuals to not be limited by provision, but only by what they want to do and achieve in the game – whether that’s a knock about down the park, representing England – and everything in between.” It sounds like the field is well set.