Edgbaston has underlined its commitment to disability sport after agreeing to host the final of the cricket competition at this month’s IBSA World Blind Games.
Cricket features in the Games – being hosted in Birmingham – for the first time with five men’s teams (England, Australia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and three women’s sides (England, Australia and India) taking part.
The teams – made up of blind and visually impaired players – will compete in a round robin group stage with the top two progressing to the final at Edgbaston on 26 August.
Edgbaston Operations Director Claire Daniel said the Club wanted to offer teams a chance to play at one of cricket’s most iconic venues – and to further raise awareness and increase participation in disability cricket.
She added: “Cricket is a sport for everyone; we’re passionate about creating opportunities for as many people as possible to get involved in the game we love.
“We have several physical and learning disability teams at Warwickshire and hubs across the region for people with disabilities to play and socialize.
“Hopefully by putting the final on at Edgbaston it will raise awareness of blind cricket and encourage more people to give it a go.
“It should be a great occasion and an opportunity for players to showcase their talent on the big stage. Tickets are free and I’d encourage people to come along and show their support. It’s played at a fast pace and the skill levels are amazing.”
Teams are made up of B1 (blind), B2 and B3 (partially blind) players who bowl underarm with a white, plastic compound ball with loose parts inside so players can hear the ball rattling when it’s in motion.
Bears players Ed Barnard and Michael Burgess spent time with the squads during an England warm-up game against the Aussies at Old Elizabethan’s CC in Worcester.
They were given the chance to bat and bowl in goggles simulating the range of visual impairment and truly appreciate the skill levels involved.
After the nets session Barnard said: “They were bowling it down at a decent pace, and it was tough. It really makes you appreciate the skill levels involved, just to hit the ball let alone hitting fours and sixes, I was seriously impressed.
“These guys are brilliant at what they do and hopefully there will be a decent turnout for the final at Edgbaston to cheer them on.”
And Burgess added: “It’s important the Club and ECB are supporting all forms of cricket. There’s so much passion on display here, people who just want to play and improve, and it’s opening doors to people who perhaps didn’t think there was an opportunity for them.
“Warwickshire very much has a one-club feel and that’s shown at the end of season dinner when the men’s, women’s, seniors and disability teams come together. We all want to support each other to succeed.”
Moshfique Ahmed, part of England Men’s 15-strong squad, suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2017 which led to him losing his sight overnight.
He said cricket has changed his life. “I was in a bad place. But cricket has really helped me mentally and physically, given me the motivation and confidence that I’d lost.
“I was invited to come to a trial last year, got selected for England, and I’m loving it! It’s such a proud thing for me to be wearing an England shirt.”
Tickets for the final (Women’s final 11am, Men’s 3.30pm) are available free to buy online at tickets.edgbaston.com.
To get involved in blind cricket in the region, go to Birmingham Stars Blind Cricket website.
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