The sun is out, spring has arrived and we find ourselves on the cusp of summer. All this means that the rough and ready, loutish football season is nearly over and, although the World Cup will soon follow, we can embrace the return of the gentleman’s game, the thinking man’s football – Cricket… Blind Cricket and Disability Cricket that is.
Yes, it’s time for the beginning of the Cricket season and whether you’re a bowler, a batsman or just a spectator, like our blind friend Andy Gemmell, this most civilised of games is accessible to everyone. We’re going to take a look at each of these adaptations of our national sport and find out the easiest ways to get involved. We’ve found that, although there aren’t loads of different places to play, there are a fair amount of chances to give Cricket a go. Let’s start with Blind Cricket…
Blind Cricket was originally adapted from the standard version of the game in Australia in 1922, but it was really during the Second World War that the game caught on in Britain when it was used as a form of recreation for injured servicemen. It quickly became a huge success, thanks to its inclusivity and the camaraderie it encouraged. In fact, the founding members of British Blind Sport - the organisation that now governs all blind and partially sighted sports (and shares initials with us at Blue Badge Style) – were blind cricketers. Nowadays, the other BBS helps to run the game on a national level and hosts the sport’s main cup competition.
For many people the able bodied version of Cricket has proved to be impenetrably complicated, so it might not be that helpful when we say that most of the rules are the same in Blind Cricket. However, we are going to have to make a bit of a generalisation and assume that most people looking to get into Blind Cricket will be largely familiar with the rules of Cricket. In case you’re not, an over-simplified explanation is that one person throws a ball at somebody else, who then has to bat it away (a much more thorough version is available here – Cricket is somehow both remarkably simple and extraordinarily complex).
The British version of Blind Cricket has contrived to break away from the rest of the world, using a different set of rules to other countries, but in the UK the main difference between Blind Cricket and standard Cricket is that the balls and wickets used by Blind Cricketers are both slightly larger. They use a size three football because it’s easier for partially sighted people to see and the ball is filled with a number of ball bearings, so that the totally blind players can hear it move. Additionally, there are teams of eleven, four of whom must be totally blind. Pitches towards totally blind batsmen have to bounce twice, rather than once, before reaching the wicket, but cannot be rolling and totally blind batsmen cannot be stumped out. The bowler has to ask the batsman if he’s ready before bowling and then shout “play” as he releases the ball. Finally, a totally blind fielder is allowed one bounce to catch someone out.
If you, a friend or a family member are looking to try out Blind Cricket the most obvious place to start is the Blind Cricket England & Wales (BCEW) website or the British Blind Sport contact page. There doesn’t seem to be a particularly large number of clubs playing Blind Cricket and there are even fewer for women. You may have noticed that the rules of Blind Cricket are written with male players in mind but there is an all women’s team at the Cricket For Change centre in London and there doesn’t seem to be any reason that ladies can’t play at other clubs, there just don’t seem to be many examples of it happening.
There doesn’t appear to be one convenient online tool for locating local Blind Cricket clubs, so it’s best to personally get in touch with the governing bodies. One would hope that this is due to the fact that it’s just easier for visually impaired people to use the phone to find out about Blind Cricket, rather than a lack of organisation. It seems like a very enjoyable sport and a good way of socialising too!
Time to move from Blind Cricket onto Disability Cricket. Mixed Disability Cricket was pioneered in Oswestry in May 1989 to give people with mixed disabilities the chance to play. They made three categories of disability – Zephyr (now known as CC3) for those with a low level of disability, Zenith (now CC2) for a medium level of disability and Zodiac (now CC1) for high level of disability – to ensure that those players with a higher level of disability would have equal opportunities to develop
Again, the game is played with very similar rules to Standard Cricket, with a few differences thrown in. Disability Cricket matches use lighter balls, such as Incrediballs, Windballs or occasionally tennis balls (although CC3 category games may use a standard cricket ball) and lighter or plastic Kwik Cricket bats. The high level disability category, Zodiac (CC1), play on a shorter pitch which is 16 metres long, rather than the standard 22 metres. There’s extra marking to reduce the length of distance run by players in wheelchairs/on sticks which bowlers with very weak arms may also use and any player disadvantaged in a team due to disability may request a runner. So, just a few minor adaptations to the famous old game.
Finding somewhere to play Disability Cricket may be even trickier than with Blind Cricket. The Cricket Federation For People With Disabilities might be a good place to start and has a page of links to regional clubs where you can play. However, this is not an exhaustive list, at least we hope it isn’t as it’s quite a small collection of clubs. As with Blind Cricket it may be easiest to contact the CFPD, The British Association For Cricketers With Disabilities or the ECB to find out about how you can get involved (if anyone reading knows of a better resource, please let us know in the comments below).
Cricket is a great way to improve your stamina and balance, while enhancing your social and team working skills. It’s non-contact and it’s not too taxing physically, so it’s can be a really good sport to take up casually in the summer. Although it can be quite serious, it can also be the ideal leisurely, gentlemen’s (and lady’s) game and is accessible to everyone.