Role models in disability cricket
Obtained from the ECB website at www.ecb.co.uk, are some truely inspiring stories of individuals who even with their disabilities continue to aspire to the reach highest levels they can in cricket.
A keen sportsman throughout his life, George spent many years participating in a variety of sports, from football, to volleyball, to cricket. Cricket played a large part in George’s sporting life, a keen batsman, he padded up regularly to teach the oppositions bowlers a few lessons.
Aged 40, George found himself in a serious accident, which saw him spend the next two years in hospital.
“For that spilt second, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "The next two years saw me hospitalised and I have been through 36 operations. This left me with a changed life in terms of my mobility amongst other things. Things changed in that split second, and my sporting life was gone”
Some years later, George saw an advertisement from Disability Sport for All in Derbyshire, who were advertising for players for a cricket team,
“My wife and I saw the advert at virtually the same moment – she suggested I should go along”
George attended the sessions and went on to score a very respectable 44 in his opening innings. From these sessions, George was invited onto work with the England Disability Squad, something that a few years ago was an unthinkable outcome.
“The thing that struck me the most about the teams, is the overwhelming enthusiasm shown by the players, as individuals, and as a group. I hope to continue playing cricket for as long as possible. That first day I stepped back onto the field, pads on, bat in hand, it was like nothing had ever changed. The feeling was amazing.”
Mahommed lost his sight three years ago as a teenager but as a keen sportsman decided he was not going to give up on his sporting ambitions.
He found out that Leicester ran a visually impaired team and he asked if he could go along. Mahommed’s positive attitude saw him attend his first training session and he found something he loved doing.
Mo delivers a ball during a recent training session at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough
“I currently study here in Leicester and playing cricket has been something I love doing," he said. "It fits in well around my study and I enjoy the social side, as well as the training and competition. I am TASS funded (Talented Athlete Support Scheme - a scheme offering financial support to talented youngsters), and that is a great help. Cricket is a big commitment once you get to this level and without this funding, I and others may struggle to play.”
He debuted against India in 2007 and hasn’t looked back since. With an Oxford application in the pipeline and three ODIs against Pakistan coming up this summer, life is going to be busy.
Nathan has been visually impaired from birth and was educated at a segregated school. His school initially was just for visually impaired students but over the years opened its doors to a variety of impaired students, something he believes that stood him in good stead to appreciate a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles.
Nathan went on to University in Birmingham where he became part of the VI Athletics Squad after training through his school years in the field.
“I was fortunate enough to end up as part of the GB Athletics Squad, and attended two European and one World Championship," he explained. "However, in 2000, I sustained a serious ankle injury which saw me out of action for the winter. Subsequently, I missed the qualifiers for the Paralympics, which as I'm sure you can imagine was devastating.
"I was at a real low but a friend of mine, Heindrich Swanepole, suggested I try cricket. He gave me the number of a local contact and it really was as simple as that. I made a call and was part of a team.”
Before attending training, Nathan ordered a selection of cricket balls and perhaps more importantly a copy of the rules. As a highly trained sportsman, he was leaving nothing to chance and fully researched the sport he was about to enter into.
Nathan found an environment which suited him, a more relaxed ethos to an extent than that of the world of athletics. There was no resting on his laurels however and he took his training seriously
“I used to take my guide dog and go to the fields near my house to practice my fielding. This eventually moved into my garden where I hung up various targets which would make a noise when I hit them so I knew when I was on target.”
Many of Nathans training techniques have seen been refined and introduced to various VI training sessions.
Nathan had aspirations of making his club's first XI after a year in the game but eventually made the England Squad and has since travelled the world - all as a result of a phone call.
Gavin didn’t participate in sport within school as regularly as he would have liked. Having learning difficulties meant that participation within the school environment wasn’t as it should have been for him.
Gavin’ father, Les, a keen sportsman himself ensured that Gavin was active in his free time but steered his children away from football due to the expectations placed on a vast number of children for a limited number of places.
“There were cricket clubs in our area, but none of them were quite what we were looking for, so we set up our own," he said. "We had six children back in 2002, and now run the ever growing Portsmouth Community CC. The club runs a variety of sides where everyone is welcome.”
Gavin flourished within this environment and has since gone on to be a very successful cricketer, making his debut against Australia and becoming vice captain.
“I hope to go to Australia in November and from there there is a possibility that I will be on a cricket exchange programme and will go on to New Zealand."