John Fuller talks to Ji Mukherjee of Skipton Cricket Club about coaching disability cricket and how he feels it has positively impacted the Skipton community.
1. How did your disability cricket coaching start and why did you choose that area to become involved in?
I teach PE in several primary schools locally and was asked to run some sessions with pupils from the local school for complex needs and really enjoyed it.
2. I understand there’s a partnership with Brooklands Special Needs School as well as summer camps and the world-famous Skipton Cricket Festival.
How has disability cricket grown in your local area and what does that provision look like for kids?
The school wanted an after-school cricket club which began 4 years ago and we entered the North Yorkshire festival in York coming 2nd. The players were having lots of fun but also showed good skills. They also entered the Table Cricket competition which went well too.
We have weekly sessions inside or out and work on skills and play games. Some ex-pupils have come back from college to take part which is great.
We applied for Disability Cricket Champion Club status, and after lockdown, we started a group down at the club and had a mixture of adults and children taking part. We will develop this next season as we open up further.
4. For those of us with limited knowledge of disability cricket, could you give an insight into the circumstances of some of those who want to play cricket and can’t?
What disabilities are kids faced with and how do you adapt cricket to accommodate them?
Many of the players have a developmental delay which makes both processing and reacting to stimulus difficult. They can bat, bowl and field both independently and with support, and patience is the main attribute needed to enable them to access the game.
Some players have more physical challenges but have great determination to succeed, sometimes needing help from a parent, coach or a carer. We have a couple whose parents play in clubs so they have had more exposure to the game and show great technique.
Adaptations might be larger or different coloured balls, and ones with bells in if visually impaired. We use lighter bats and tennis rackets to hit with too, sometimes using a baseball-type tee.
Some players in wheelchairs may struggle with agility movement but they can hit and catch well, and we adapt the bowling or activity to enable all to play together.
5. If a cricket club was looking to start its own disability cricket activities, what would your advice be?
Go for it! If you have your safeguarding in place just advertise a turn-up and-play session. If you have an appropriate school or college nearby, they would love to support it.
There is no better time to open the sport up to more people and create a welcoming environment for all to enjoy. There will be some challenges with space, coaching, clubhouse access, but the players come prepared and just want to be treated equally.
They will love taking part and experiencing the highs and lows of hitting a six, taking a wicket or being bowled out by their friend, but mostly it is the team spirit that shines through as everyone is so supportive of each other whatever their ability.
Edgar Herridge, National Disability Cricket Manager, and Rohan Randhawa from YCB have a wealth of experience and information to help too.
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