April is Autism Acceptance Month so as part of our Edgbaston for Everyone pledge we brought together ‘The Autistic Cricketer’ Haroon Irshad and Bears all-rounder Rob Yates to further raise awareness of the condition.

Haroon – who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two – opens the batting for Warwickshire’s Disability Access Team and captains a Sunday Second XI side for his local club Walmley.

He launched his online persona The Autistic Cricketer last year to showcase the Access Team’s progress and to encourage more people with autism to play cricket.

The 23-year-old sat down with Rob at the Club’s Indoor Centre to discuss the pressures of opening the batting and coping mechanisms they both employ.

Rob – the Vitality County Championship’s third top run scorer this season with 370 – then spent time passing on some batting tips during a nets session. 

“Autism affects me positively and negatively when I play cricket,” said Haroon, who was part of the Access Team that was crowned regional disability league champions last season.

“Positively, that I can think objectively as a captain and be hyper focused when batting. But the negatives are I can get very anxious when I bat. It stops me from being able to bat with a clear mind and play to my fullest potential. 

“Those nerves can be heightened through the lens of autism.

“Routine is really important to me – and it was interesting to learn how routine is also central to Rob’s match day preparation. I’ll always go to Tesco before a game, buy the same Meal Deal, same pre-match warm-up and same walk on routine. In fact, I tend to run on as though I’m emulating Joe Root!

“I know it’s important not to overthink it but that’s not always easy with autism.

“The Access Team is full of people with stories and struggles. We are in it together. The Access Team and Walmley are my families away from family.

“Being able to get advice from someone like Rob who admire as a cricketer and a person has really inspired me coming into the season. Some of the things he’s advised are already paying off.”

Picture of Warwickshire Access Team at the EOS Awards 2023

Warwickshire will defend its Super 9s regional disability title next year and has also, for the first time, entered a team into the national D40 Pursuit disability hard ball league.

The Access team trains every week at Edgbaston Cricket Centre and play home league games at Castle Bromwich Cricket Club.

Edgbaston was also the first cricket ground in the country to introduce Sensory Rooms designed for families with neurodiverse children. 

Both rooms are fitted out with colourful fibre optics, bubble tubes, rotating images, games and soft furnishings to provide a calming environment for families and children that need to get away from the hustle and bustle of a match day or event. 

The Sensory Rooms are helping make cricket accessible to families with neurodiverse children who might otherwise feel uncomfortable attending matches.

To find out more and get involved at edgbaston.com.

Over 13,000 sold for Women’s IT20 vs Pakistan

Pakistan Women will be in Birmingham on Saturday 11 May 2024 and over 13,000 tickets have already been sold.

With the Men’s IT20 already sold out, this is your last chance to see Pakistan at Edgbaston next summer and tickets are available from only £17, with under 16s £5.