Hampshire VI Cricket Club
T20 FINALS DAY -
By Les Clemenson (Bristol and Western Counties ACU&S)
The kit had been washed and put away for the winter, when I received an invitation to stand at the National 20/20 Finals for Visually Impaired Cricketers; the competition is run by Blind Cricket England and Wales .I have long been a member of the Primary Club, the charity much lauded on TMS, that supports visually impaired cricket, so [thought I] knew something of how the game was played. My wife works for the local visually impaired support group (The Wiltshire Blind Association) and agreed to come with me to Leamington Spa to watch (hence rewashing the kit would not be a problem!).
VI cricketers, I discovered on reading the rules, are officially categorised from B1, in general, close to or totally blind, through to B4, very limited partial vision. Each team must have a minimum number of B1 players and a maximum number of B4’s. Some B1 players have to appear early in the batting order and they must bowl a minimum number of overs. When bowling to a B1 batsman the ball must bounce twice before reaching the popping crease (or it’s a no ball and for 20/20, a free hit off the next fair delivery), for B2 and B3 it must bounce once, but B4’s can receive a legitimate full toss. A delivery can never bounce more than four times and may not roll along the ground. Counting bounces etc are strikers end duties. When fielding, a legitimate catch can be made by a B1 payer when the ball has bounced once – for all others it must be taken on the full. B1’s, when they bat, must have a runner, whose duties also include explaining to the striker where the fieldsman are located – so umpires need to ensure the field does not then move around. B1’s themselves are exempt from being stumped or run out whilst on strike. Because the runners need to talk to the striker they usually stand close and [umpires beware] will often move from leg to off side randomly after doing so.
The ball is a small football and contains a handful of ball bearings. If you thought the ball makes a huge amount of noise you are wrong, it is just a quiet, subtle rustling sound. The stumps are larger than usual, are mounted on a base and have fixed bails. This is because both batsman and bowlers often feel the stumps to let them orient themselves. If they were the normal size, they could not easily find them and if they had removable bails, these would constantly be knocked off.
Given the above (and there are some further esoteric law changes) it was with some trepidation I walked out for the first match of the morning. How would I know a B1 from a B2? Fortunately, my partner was an experienced VI umpire, so he agreed to take the first over. I was surprised and humbled by what followed. Rarely have I stood in a match where the players were so intent on enjoying themselves or as willing to help each other and work together, ensuring the game was played far beyond the wildest imagination of those who drafted The Spirit of Cricket preamble to The Laws. I did not have to worry about knowing who was a B anything, the players themselves did, and to an extent the B1’s were easy to identify.
Merely signalling your decisions is, of course, insufficient. You have to call everything, loudly enough for everyone to hear. Calling no ball from square leg for wrong/too many bounces took some getting used to as did remembering that a B1 batsman needed help to “find me” at square leg when no longer on strike. Once these issues were overcome, I was able to focus on the remarkably competent cricket being played. Some of the B1’s were so capable that I have to admit to forgetting they were visually impaired; so when one was bowled I had missed the fact it was a single bounce delivery. The batsman hadn’t! Nor had my colleague! So this was quickly resolved; albeit leaving me a bit red faced.
Ansel Porter of Wiltshire ACO watches over Hampshire and Sussex at the
VI T20 tournament at Leamington Spa
I was asked to stand in the final along with Ansell Porter from Wiltshire. Given this was, for both of us, the second VI game we had ever done, a very brave and kind decision made by the organisers. I think we did an OK job. We didn’t seem to miss anything and the game passed without any real issue. Well, apart that is from the umpires worst nightmare, when we had two B1 batsman at the crease; so two runners. I had never experienced this before. Apparently it is common in VI games. We all know the theory, but the practise was “entertaining”. Fortunately, there were no speedy run outs on the day; which is just as well.
Although a fine day, being late season the issue of potentially unacceptable “bad” light was discussed. Given the ball is extremely unlikely to cause anyone injury and the nature of the challenges facing the players, this was met with some wry amusement. As it was, the issue didn’t arise, but the question “how dark can it get?” was never really answered. In the end Warwickshire beat Sussex to win the title.
Talking to the organisers and players, they said they find it difficult to persuade umpires to stand in their games. I can promise anyone that if you get the chance, you will enjoy it. You will be rewarded by a fun day with genuinely talented and enthusiastic cricketers. The BCEW are putting together a panel for VI cricket. There is a national league, a knock out cup and a T20 competition. In addition there are international matches (England also holds the VI Ashes) and the odd exhibition game, often at lunch during major “red ball” matches. The panel will be restricted to only 25 members in 2010, and all will have to be ECBACO. There are not that many games each year, around 4 matches in the season for each member, so this should not get in the way significantly of our current duties. If anyone is interested please let contact
Pete Marshall on email@example.com.