Bucks has entered its first ever disabled team into this year’s England and Wales Cricket Board’s National Disability Championships.
This summer, the Bucks team will play Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire, Sussex and Middlesex, home and away.
People with physical disabilities, learning disabilities or mental health issues are eligible, including people from wheelchair-bound amputees to people who have a mild disorder of autism or Asperger’s.
Blind and visually impaired people play cricket with a plastic ball full of ball bearings. The ball is bowled underarm and has to bounce once, in each half of the pitch, before reaching the batsman.
People with severe learning or physical disabilities can play table cricket. Seated around a table tennis table, players deliver a weighted plastic ball through a ball launcher, bat with a small wooden bat, and control sliding fielders on the panels around the edge of the table.
Twenty one of the 38 first class and minor counties run cricket for disabled people. England has teams for blind and visually impaired people and deaf cricketers, also for people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities.
Last year, England’s physical disability team played against Pakistan in Dubai, and the blind team took part in the World Cup, won by India. This March, England’s learning disability squad tours Australia.
Bucks has three coaching centres for disabled cricketers around the county: Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Aylesbury, on Thursdays from 6-7pm, High Wycombe and Milton Keynes.
Keith Dale explains that the best players from each centre will be invited to a performance coaching programme. The first session is in Wokingham with former England’s women coach Chris Ellison. This will be held on March 21.
Further coaching sessions are planned in Bucks with Chris leading up the sessions. People who join one of the three coaching centres after this date will also be considered for the county team.
“We also aim to set up some friendly matches for the summer, so everyone who comes along can get a game.” Dale says. “We’ll also help those players who want to play mainstream cricket find a club.”
Anyone interested in going along to Stoke Mandeville or High Wycombe should contact Keith Dale on firstname.lastname@example.org. For the Milton Keynes sessions, contact Colin Kightley on email@example.com for more details.