Cricket for everyone?: The experiences of a disabled cricketer

Oliver Thorpe details the opportunities available to disabled players in England and Wales in 2021

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Being a disabled cricketer can be quite the challenge: some levels of the recreational game are too easy, some are too hard. 

It’s all about finding the right level for you, which you’ll find by ticking three boxes – if you’re comfortable, not putting yourself in danger and most importantly – you’re enjoying it. 

There are a number of ways that a cricketer with a disability can get involved in the game. They may choose to play able-bodied cricket, hard-ball cricket, soft-ball cricket or even visually impaired cricket. 

Over the last few years, the ECB has done a lot to ensure that the disability game is being recognised, and more and more we’re starting to see clips go viral on social media – it’s extraordinary to say the least. 

Now, you may be sitting as a disabled cricketer thinking ‘how do I get involved?’ or a club thinking ‘how do we start up disability cricket?’ – well fear not, there is a way and you’ve come to the right place. 

As a disabled cricketer, speak to local clubs in your area and see what they have to offer. They may offer the formats mentioned above and if they don’t, it may be worth having a chat about how you can get involved. 

If there are no clubs nearby, then reach out to your local county cricket board or foundation and see what they have available. The ECB and Lord’s Taverners do loads throughout the year, catering for all forms of disability. 

At university, I was fortunate enough to represent Lancashire and help them reach the semi-finals of the ECB D40 competition in 2018. This was a hard-ball 40-over competition for players with a hearing impairment, learning disability or a physical disability, with counties from all over the country taking part. A full list of competing counties is available on the ECB website. 

Search out programmes such as the Super 9s, Super 1s and table cricket. For young children, the ECB’s Dynamos Cricket and All Stars Cricket programmes are available to youngsters of all abilities. 

FIVE QUICK STEPS TO ESTABLISHING A DISABLED SECTION AT YOUR CLUB
SPEAK TO YOUR COUNTY BOARD 
Get in touch with your local county board, they’ll be able to help your club get on the ladder and get you on your way to supporting the disabled game. 
CONTACT THE ECB 
There are people at the national governing body who will be happy to help you get started with disability cricket. They’ll point you in the right direction and make sure you the support you need. 
REACH OUT TO LORD’S TAVERNERS 
The Lord’s Taverners charity will be able to assist you in setting up disability cricket at your club. They’ll be able to give tips and advice on how to go about things. 
GAUGE INTEREST 
Make sure you speak to relevant members of your community and ensure there are enough people willing to participate. 
RAISE AWARENESS 
Spread the word on social media. Make sure the people that need to see it do so by tagging them. You’ll get players from nearby towns and cities turning out so ensure that you’re prepared. 

For players with a visual impairment, Super 9s or D40 cricket is not an option. Instead, you have the BCEW regional league and the BCEW national league. 

At this stage, you’re on the pathway to becoming an England cricketer and one step closer to pulling on the Three Lions. There is a Lions programme in the respective disciplines, bridging the gap between county level and the international scene. 

If there’s a club out there that wants to get involved, then you could approach your county cricket board or foundation to see what assistance they can offer. They will have officers that may be able to facilitate in helping you get set up and answer any questions that you may have. 

Alternatively, you could approach the ECB directly and they will help you gain access to their Champion Club programme. The programme is designed to give clubs a helping hand in making the game more accessible in their community. They will offer you guidance, resources and equipment to help you achieve this. It will allow for all members of your community regardless of ability to get involved in the game whether it be as a player, official, volunteer or a follower. 

Each champion club will receive a free kit bag containing plastic equipment and a variety of balls and markers to help coaches. 

If your club becomes an ECB champion, you will be able to access ECB funding to support the delivery and funding of inclusive sessions. A full list of how a club can get involved with this scheme can be found on the ECB’s website. 

The programmes mentioned in this piece are a fabulous way of engaging all members of society, ensuring that cricket is seen as a game for all and making clear that the entire community can get involved, no matter their ability. 

It is fantastic to see the ECB actively engaging with the disability game and putting in every effort to make it visible, at every level. Hopefully in a post-pandemic world we will hear more about the disabled game and be able to watch it grow and inspire those who previously thought that our great sport 

 wasn’t for them. Cricket will always be a game for everyone. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. 

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