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An Introduction to Blind Cricket

Blind Cricket has been played for around eighty years within sports clubs for the Visually Impaired, although the league format has only been around for about ten years. With all ball sports being much easier to adapt for Visually Impaired people, by using ball bearings within a normal ball people with any kind of sight can play. To help them play there are some changes to the basic game to give blind people a better chance.

How Blind Cricket differs from its sighted counterpart
The game of Blind Cricket is played basically with the same general rules as the sighted game, with the same objectives being to score runs or take wickets to win the match. However, there are differences which make it easier for people with sight difficulties to play the game.

The Equipment
In terms of size, although the distance between the wickets is the same, with most games being played on club pitches, the boundaries are generally marked out as shorter and both the stumps and the wickets are larger than they would normally be. The ball can therefore be picked up with more ease both facing the bowling and in the field. It follows that the wickets should be bigger, to give some advantage back to the bowling side with the batsman having less chance of being clean bowled. The ball also should be a striking white colour to make it easier to see. The ball also creates one of the biggest differences between the Blind game and the Sighted in that it has no seam, where seam movement is a major factor normally. This is mainly due to the ball having to bounce twice before reaching the crease for totally blind players, which would cause havoc with seam movement.

The Scores
One of the most striking things about Blind Cricket is the scoring rate, which is consistently very quick and also generally contains a lot of extras. These extras generally come from totally blind players, who not being able to see to the other side of the pitch can bowl astray, and also come about because of the difficulty in holding a size three ball to bowl accurately with. In terms of runs off the bat, with the new rules totally blind players receive double runs off the bat, which for some skilled players can mean very fast scoring, and people at the higher end of the sight scale also generally score quickly with the smaller boundaries. Not all games are so high scoring, when two decent bowling sides meet scoring can be greatly reduced and make for a very tight and exciting game, however there are not many players good enough to tie the highest scoring batsmen down.

The Players
A Blind Cricket team is made up of eleven players like any other cricket team. However, as the game is adapted for people with all kinds of visual impairment to play, teams are unable to field eleven players at the top end of the sight categories. As a result each team must field three or four totally blind players, if only three totally blind then one player who is designated "low partial", a term which is new to the game and so is hard to define but would be somebody who struggles to see the ball at point of the bowler's release. Another limit that is new to the game is a limit on the number of B4's or the people at the tope end of the blind cricket sight categories who are allowed, each team is only allowed two per match.
There is no real limit on the number of totally blind players who can be played, although teams can only play seven people with better sight than "low partials" but still with a visual impairment. As a result, the field set by teams in the league is unrecognisable from any in sighted cricket, with three players with low sight close in around the bat and only one slip if at all, and even though the fielders with better sight do field in more orthodox positions, with somebody with lower sight on strike the furthest fielder from the bat is sometimes the bowler! A run down of the specific rules that have been changed to make blind cricket accessible to Visually impaired people from the original rules of cricket can be seen by following this link.

The Format of the League and its teams
The League format has been around for ten years and in that time it has undergone many changes. Originally the league was only one division, London Sports and Metro the only ever-presents in the top flight.
At the start of 2006 5 clubs formed a breakaway league under the banner of BCEW (Blind Cricket England and Wales). The teams in this league will still compete in the BBS Primary Club National Knockout Cup and play friendly against BBS clubs. Northants will remain in the BBS League for this season.
The basic format is a 60 over game with one side being allowed to bat through for forty overs before the other side can bat the other twenty or the amount of overs the first side do not bat for. There are also variations on the game in cup competitions, with the BBS Primary Club national knockout cup being thirty overs a side (and a final at the Nursery Ground at Lords no less!) and there are sometimes invitational round robins of three or four teams playing fifteen overs a side.

Some information on the teams

BBS National Cricket League Division One

Yorkshire VICC
Yorkshire are in their first season in the BBS league, although the basis of the squad was put together as Leeds and District. The club are looking for a fresh start after several years struggling to fulfil fixtures and after a busy off-season recruiting players look like they have the basis of a squad which could cause some upsets in the BBS league this year.
Captain: Shah Miah
2005 League Finish: n/a
2005 Cup Finish: n/a
Star Players: Shah Miah, Pete Hoey, Mike Ferguson

Worcester enter the BBS in 2007 with their strongest line-up since 2003 and renewed hope to challenge for the title. The team, who have been guided by coach Clive Spencer since the start of competitive Blind Cricket enjoyed success until as recently as 1997. In the last eight years falling numbers of students at the college and less able players have meant Worcester have struggled, actually going nearly three years without a victory at one point.
However, with an England international in Sam Murray and new players such as James Walton and Luke Almond, Worcester have a firm footing on which to conduct this season's campaign.
Home Ground: RNIB New College, Worcester
Captain: Edward Claridge
2005 League Finish: Fifth in BBS League
2005 Cup Finish: Withdrew from cup
Star Players: Sam Murray, James Walton, Luke Almond, Edward Claridge

Birmingham are surely the most inconsistent team in the league, having started from the top division before relegation, promotion, winning the championship and last year relegation again. It was unfortunate for Birmingham that their title winning side was broken up by the break away of the majority of their squad to form Warwickshire. They were strong in the BBS league in 2007 with several good youth prospects for the future, and in 2007 look set to to be strong contenders for the title again.
Captain: Kurt Butler
2006 League Finish: 2nd in BBS league
2006 Cup Finish: Lost in Quarter Finals
Star Players: Kurt Butler; Adam Ringland

Northern Gallaways
Galloways are yet another club who have struggled to attract enough players over the few seasons they have tried to compete competitively, having to concede games and fail to finish the season more than once since the year 2000.
The club have changed their name this year from Lancashire to Northern to try and attract players from other counties.
They have reached the cup final once before suffering a heavy defeat at Lords to Metro in 2001.
Northern were inconsistent in 2006, beating Birmingham and Worcester but failing to field a team against Northants. They look more settled in 2007, and have several players who will be able to worry all attacks in the BBS league.
Captain: John Prasher
Star Players: Gary O'Neil; John Prasher; David Ellingham; Daz Cook; Gary Prescott.

BCEW League

The most successful team in the league and cup over the last twenty years have been Metro who are based in London, and who generally tend to have very strong teams both in terms of first eleven and strength in depth. Metro is a multi-sport club and they have been playing cricket for more than twenty five years. They have also had the last three England Captains and are always well represented in the England squad. They include England captain Heindrich Swanepoel in their squad.
Home Ground: Highgate, London
Captain: David Townley
2005 League Finish: Runners Up in Division One
2005 Cup Finish: Winners
Star Players: Heindrich Swannipole, Adam Benjamin, Brindley Reynolds, Rory Field, David Townley; Matt Dean.

South Wales Dragons
During the last eight years South Wales Dragons have provided the most competition for Metro claiming two league titles and two National Knockout Cup wins. Dragons are more impressive when you consider they weren't even formed until 1997, although recruiting quality players from other clubs and finding good new players helped them make an instant impact. Former Captain Neil Prior deserves a lot of the credit for Dragons achievements as he did most of the work of setting up the club and steering it to success.
Home Grounds: Sketty Lane, Swansea and Newport Fugitives Club, Newport
Captain: Howard Greenhill
2005 League Finish: Champions of Division 1
2005 Cup Finish: Runners Up
Star Players: Damion Corrigan, Howard Greenhill, Andy Law, Kerran Seal, Will Norman

Sussex Sharks
Sharks are another new team who having won promotion in 2004 had a brilliant cup-run which ended at the semi-final stage, cemented their place in the top division with good draws against both title contenders. 2006 will be there fourth competitive season and the Sharks will be hopeful of improving still further upon a solid 2005 season.
Captain: Andy Dalby-Welsh
2005 League finish: Third in Division One
2005 Cup Finish: Losing semi-finalist's
Star Players: Andy Dalby-Welsh, Miles Northwood; Dan Field; Joe Harrison; Mark Burchill

London Sports
London Sports have in recent times been somewhat underachieving, having been one of the strongest teams for many years until the late 1990's. Although they have the potential to succeed, they have never really challenged the top two and have been looking downwards in the last five years having avoided relegation in their last game of 2004 and survived in the top Division every other year since 2001 thanks to other clubs failing to complete their seasons. A lack of confidence amongst players is now London's biggest problem and until they can start winning things look uncertain for the club.
Captain: Chetan Davdra
2005 League Finish: Fourth in Division One
2005 Cup Finish: Lost in Preliminary Round
Star Players: Nazam Safder, Ali Safder, Andrew Whipp, Chetan Davdra, Haq Ishmail

Warwickshire Bears
After a disappointing fourth place finish in division two in 2005 the Bears will be hoping to challenge for the BCEW league title and they incorporate much of the Birmingham side that won the division one title in 2004. They surprisingly only finished fourth in Division Two in 2005 mainly thanks to having points deducted and some star players missing much of the season through injury. A strong bowling side with plenty of ability in the field and with the bat as well, Warwickshire will be hard to beat again in 2006.
Home Grounds: Marston Green CC and Birmingham; Solihull CC, Solihull
Captain: Nathan Foy
2005 League Finish: Fourth in Division Two
2005 Cup Finish: Lost in quarter finals
Winners of 2005 Warwickshire Invitational Tournament
Star Players: Gav Griffiths, Nathan Foy, Andy Powers, Luke Sugg, Warren Lee, Mike Harrison, Paul Powers

Clubs playing in cup only:

Eastern Vipers
Vipers have only been around since the late 1990's but have already had a very eventful existence. The Cambridgeshire based side have been promoted and relegated several times since entering the league and have had a string of good cup runs as well. Despite very rarely managing to field eleven players Vipers managed to regain their place in Division One after beating Warwickshire in a promotion decider on the final day of the 2005 season. Vipers have traditionally being a strong batting team who maybe lack a little in the bowling department. If they can find a bowler or two they will have a great chance of honours in 2006.
Captain: Dan Miles
2005 League Finish: 3rd in BBS League division 1
Cup Finish: Withdrew from cup
Star Players: Chris Syrett, Alan Chamley,

Other Clubs

RNC Hereford
RNC are a very inconsistent club, this is probably because the side is formed by players who attend the college so the sides strength depends on the college's intake and most players only stay at the club for two years. RNC are normally a mid to lower table Division Two side although they have reached the semi-finals of the cup and been promoted to Division One for one season during the last decade. Unfortunately they have also been unable to compete in at least three seasons over that time as well.
This year again they will not field their own side but are contributing six or seven players to Worcestershire's squad.
Home Ground: RNC College, Hereford
Didn't enter 2005 league or cup

Avon Sports
Avon have been around Blind Cricket in some form for about ten years although have only played competitively for three seasons. They did reach the 2004 Cup Final before pulling out in 2005 because of lack of players.
Unfortunately the club have had internal issues and won't be competing in 2006 although they do hope to reform in the future.
Didn't enter 2005 league or cup
Star Players:

To see how Northants VIXINS played against these teams in the 2005 season and in their friendlys, click here.

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