Who are we?
Visually Impaired (VI) cricket is a specially adapted version of the game that is suitable for anyone with a visual impairment – whether partially sighted or totally blind.
The main adaptation is the ball. In the domestic leagues and cups, the game is played with a size three football that is filled with tiny carbon balls that make a sound when the ball bounces or is struck by the bat. In the international game, the matches are played with a plastic ball, slightly larger than a standard cricket ball, which is also filled with smaller balls to create the sound.
Other adaptions include larger stumps and various amendments to the rules of sighted cricket that accommodate the visually impaired. Teams are made up of players with a variety of sight classifications from ‘Totals’, who are totally blind and wear eye masks, to ‘High Partials’, who are partially sighted.
The game has been played in the UK since the 1940s, when it began as a means of recreation for injured servicemen returning from the Second World War.
Today the game is played by a number of clubs up and down the country. There is a National League, comprising seven clubs, and a Development League, which features 12 clubs split into two divisions – the North and East Division and the South and West Division.
Durham VI Cricket Club began life several years ago as the North East Eagles. I became involved in the summer of 2010, when we had just a handful of interested players and very little experience. We did manage to get together a team of eleven players to take part in that year’s Development Weekend, held at York University. As to be expected from a group of players who had never been in the same place at the same time before, we had mixed results on the field of play. We did, however, have a thoroughly enjoyable weekend and were awarded the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ award for our fair play and attitude.
At the end of that summer, we held our first AGM, where a constitution was drawn up and we officially changed the name to Durham VI Cricket Club, in order to develop closer links to the Durham County Cricket Board.
In our first full summer we played several friendlies and even entered the BBS Knockout Cup. There was improvement on the field and a continued sense of enjoyment and team spirit off it. That year, the Development Weekend moved to its current home at Leicester University and it was here that the idea of a Development League was first discussed.
The League was in place for the summer of 2012, and for the next two summers Durham played matches home and away to Yorkshire’s development team, Nottinghamshire Knights and Lancashire. This year’s Development League sees the addition of Derbyshire to the North and East Division, which means that we will play a total of eight league games this season. We have started well, with an eight wicket win away to Notts.
Unfortunately our BBS Cup match against Yorkshire’s first team did not go so well, but at least we have our fifth Development Weekend to look forward to in September.
As well as our matches, we have winter training sessions at the Indoor Cricket Centre in Chester-le-Street and, once the weather improves, we train weekly outdoors at Darlington RA Cricket Club (which is where we currently play our matches).
The biggest issue that we face as a club is player recruitment, and retention. It seems that the VI community in the North East is not that aware of VI cricket, and we face stiff competition from goalball and VI tennis, which have taken off in a big way.
We also find that players who live in the more northern areas of the county, or the North East region as a whole, have some reservations about travelling to Darlington, but most of us use trains and there is some subsidy available for travel costs.
I can say that in my time volunteering with the club, which has seen me take my Level one and Two coaching badges, I have seen players develop both as cricketers and as people. I have no doubt that the players benefit both physically and socially from their involvement with the club, and our away trips are always full of laughs.
We are always on the lookout for new players and anyone with a visual impairment who would like to give the game a go, whatever their experience, can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome players of any age or gender and with any level of sight loss.
Club Contacts -
Secretary - Gareth Townley tel: 07714871793 e-mail : email@example.com
Chairman - Richard Boggie tel: 07833702448 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Captain/Treasurer - John Hawkins tel: 07890951213 e-mail: john_w_Hawkins@yahoo.co.uk
Coach - Ron Young tel: 07801090661 e-mail: email@example.com