DUBAI: The International Cricket Council (ICC) has been challenged to do more for disability cricket if they are to justify the claim of governing a truly global game.
The call was made by Ian Martin, the ECB’s head of disability cricket, as the organisation seek to stage a World Championship for physically disabled cricketers in 2019.
The first disability World Cup was staged in Bangladesh in 2015. On that occasion, five nations took part with the hosts joined by England and the other teams — India, Pakistan and Afghanistan — heavily subsided by the International Red Cross.
The ECB now hope to host a seven-team event (this time termed a World Championship) in 2019. The hope is that those nations invited — Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, South Africa and England — will play a two-week T20 competition between the 2019 World Cup and The Ashes.
The process is complicated, however, as several cricket boards have little involvement with disability cricket. In India, for example, four or five organisations claim to be the governing body of the nation’s physical disability cricket with the BCCI seemingly reluctant to take responsibility. As a result, funding — or even just selecting a side said to represent India — is problematic.
In 2015, and again for the 2019 tournament, the ICC have had no meaningful involvement with the organisation of the tournaments, in spite of comments made by Haroon Lorgat in 2012, when he was the chief executive of ICC, that “disabled cricket is on the agenda”.
“We’re not as inclusive as we should be,” Ian Martin, the ECB’s head of disability cricket, told ESPNcricinfo. “We talk of being a global game and we celebrate images of it being played in different communities and in different environments — by Maasai Warriors or on mountain tops — as evidence of its popularity and diversity.
“But if we are not providing opportunities for people to play in countries where we think of cricket as a popular, accessible sport, we’re not truly global and we’re not fulfilling our duty.
“A global governing body should be able to evidence what it is doing to enable participation for disabled communities within its member nations. But rather than being driven and guided by the ICC, such matters are devolved to individual boards who have little or no experience in developing the game for disabled people. I think we can do better.”
In the long term, the likes of Martin would like to see ICC membership criteria extended to include requirements for the encouragement and development of disability cricket. In the short term, he is hopeful that some contribution from ticket sales for the 2019 World Cup will be allocated towards the physical disability World Championship.
But while other sports embrace and take pride in the development of their physical disability programmes — the Paralympics, for example, attracted a huge TV audience — the lack of support from the ICC for such schemes in cricket reflects poorly upon them.