Disabilities are perceived differently world over and a change in perception is evident everywhere. Slowly, the lesser able is finding his space and cricket is playing a big role, discovers Sports Editor AUGUSTO RODRIGUES in conversation with NEIL BRADSHAW, Disability Cricket Operations Manager of England
Q: What is you assessment of how lesser able people in England and India are looked at?
This cricket tour of ours has shown us that there is a change in mindset taking place in India. We went to a hotel the other day and we were happy to see that it had a nice toilet for the disabled. A member of our team uses a wheel chair and he could not use the toilet because there was no ramp leading to the toilet. Changes are taking place and that is by itself a great indicator of change.
Q: Sports is playing a big role in helping the lesser able. When and how did this turnaround happen?
I think it started after we hosted the 2012 Olympics for the handicapped. The impact sports can have on people with disability is huge and that is partly happened because a lot of money is being pumped into sports. Finance in sports has changed with a lot of money coming into sports. There was no awareness before and with the money coming in, the outlook has changed. First we used to say if you are disabled you cannot play. That perception is changing but it takes a long time to change this culture.
Q: What is the role of the English Cricket Board towards the lesser able?
ECB funds everything for the disabled. ECB has sponsored the entire tour for this tournament and has programmes for them all through the year in the country. Anyone who has a disability and comes to the ECB is looked through its cricket activities.
Q: Can you give an estimate of what ECB spends or how many people it tends to?
I do not have a figure, so I will be telling you a lie if I try to make up a figure. But, I know that the ECB tends to anyone – through whichever charity – who comes forward. The number is difficult to assess because no one is rejected.
Q: Does ECB only sponsor tours or is there a programme?
Tours is one aspect. There is a full time programme with interaction with all the players which will help influence their lives. Not everyone is going to be a star but everyone should be given the opportunity to try to be the best. It is about improving the quality of their lives.
Q: What role does the International Cricket Council (ICC) have in this plan?
Cricket for the disabled is ready to explode. ICC needs to push that up and that can be done when the classifications are clear and a robust profile is created for the disabled. Cricket can be used as a key to open people’s mind to different religions and cultures.
Q: How happy or sad were you all with Goa?
The facilities in Goa are fantastic. It is a shame that funding has been taken away from the Goa Cricket Association. This is a lovely state with a vibrant cricket association with good people, with a passion to help. It is like being at home, just a bit warmer. Teams would love to come here. If there is proper investment, I am sure the U-19 level could be held here. The investment must come back because the GCA has all the facilities here.