Barbados has been synonymous with cricket since the 1800's so it was not surprising that the island was also in the forefront with it's creation of the first blind cricket program in the Caribbean in 2001.
Inter territorial matches have since been played with much success. Barbados hosted the first regional tournament in 2006 and in the same year, became the first territory to establish the Barbados Blind Cricket Association. This was followed by the creation of the Jamaica Visually Impaired Cricket Association, T & T Blind Cricket Association. (Trinidad and Tobago) and Guyana Blind Cricket Association
There have been many "firsts" for Barbados, so at a time when global awareness of accessibility and inclusion are at the forefront, might Barbados once again demonstrate its leadership by expanding its blind cricket program to include an all disability program?
Cricket and How it has Survived and Evolved into Including Persons with all Disabilities
The earliest cricket may have developed by the 8th century or earlier from ancient bat-and-ball games from the region between North India and Pakistan. The trend traveled through Persia (now called Iran) and into Europe and Great Britain. Initially, the game was called "creagh" or "cricke" by the Normans who conquered England in 1066.
Cricket was banned from 1300 - 1500 A.D. as monarchs and British barons favoured archery (which would serve as a military advantage) over "such a disreputable activity that only idlers, gamblers and dissolute characters played". Outlaws such as Robin Hood were rumoured to having been excellent players along with famous political leader Oliver Cromwell.
Interestingly, the idea of "adaptive sports" came in the form of deaf cricket as far back as 1895 when the first deaf cricket interstate match was held in South Australia. In Great Britain, deaf cricket started out as a Great Britain Team (part of the British Deaf Sports Council) with a trip in 1988 to the West Indies by a squad of 15 players to play some matches against local teams.
In 1922, blind cricket was developed by Australia. At the time of a Test Match, two creative residents thought "blind people could play cricket as well, and put rocks in a tin can" and began to play a crude version of the modern day cricket .
Blind cricket has also been played in England and Wales since the 1940's. While the England and Wales Cricket Board, established in 1997 in the U.K., is the single national governing body for all cricket in England and Wales and provides access to the sport of cricket for persons with disabilities, the British Blind Sport (BBS) and Blind Cricket England and Wales (BCEW) are the organizations who are responsible for the day to day running of the sport.
Physical, Emotional and Learning Disabilities
Along with the blind and deaf cricket, the Hampshire Cricket Board which was setup in 1998 in the U.K., has developed categories and programs for persons with physical, emotional and learning disabilities, HCB, whose mission statement is "to provide a cricketing future for all" has one of the most advanced disability cricket programs
in the country and works with professional players and coaches in assisting players with disabilities in training and competition .
One of the newest programs HCB has launched is the Bluebird Care Elite Player Development Program for cricketers with disabilities who have international potential. Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme was formed to provide support services to these talented athletes based on their performance levels.
The HCB also supports the Hampshire Visually Impaired Cricket Club in providing opportunities for the blind and partially sighted.
Cricket as Youth Development
Cricket for Change was setup in 1981 and targets disadvantaged youth as well as disabled youth. Just recently, the team has traveled to Trinidad and Tobago to introduce a new program called "Street20" which is a crime reduction program proven to be very successful in the U.K. As well, the team traveled to Jamaica in 2009 to launch The Courtney Walsh Foundation which replicates the Cricket for Change programs specifically for males and females 18 - 21.
Rules and Regulations
In disability cricket, the rules and regulations are disability specific, however there is no recognized international cricket for people with physical disabilities at the present, therefore the rules are based on a domestic structure called DSE profiling system for athletes with physical impairments also known as the Coaches Guide to Functional Ability.
Recognition for Barbados
Barbados already receives recognition for its excellence in regular and blind cricket as well as being a cricketing destination. Through the "Fully Accessible Barbados" initiative launched by the BCD in 2005, Barbados has taken leadership in creating a culture of inclusion. The island is also known for its mantra of "can do" in the cricket world. The cricket community along with the regular community has recognized and acknowledged what talented cricketers can contribute to the game rather than what their limitations are.
With 14,000 persons with disabilities on the island, (in England and Wales there are between 3,000 and 4,000 persons with disabilities playing regular or occasional cricket at present), creating an all disability cricket program would be welcomed. Such a program would give persons with all types of disabilities an opportunity to play the sport of their island where they could develop their self confidence and social skills. As well, the camaraderie along with the exhilaration and excitement of international competition can be experienced for the first time.
Barbados could introduce programs similar to the Hampshire Talented Athlete Scheme to recognize and support those disabled cricketers who demonstrate exceptional performance and could be considered for international competition
The island could draw on the expertise of other cricket boards such as the Hampshire Cricket Board and the English and Wales Cricket Board. As well, Barbados could seek the support and input from non profit organizations such as BARNOD, Barbados Council for the Disabled, Disabled Peoples' Organization of North America and the Caribbean (DPOC) and Disabled People's International. There are ample resources to access with the deaf, physical, learning, and emotional disabilities programs already in place. The combined efforts could serve well to set the ground work for education and training programs to encompass all the Caribbean islands and beyond.
Cricket for Change, Street20 and The Courtney Walsh Foundation would be excellent programs to integrate into the cricket world of Barbados. Although the crime rate is low in Barbados, it is a known fact that sometimes poverty goes hand-in-hand with disabilities and where there is poverty, there is crime; particularly among youths. Street20 has been successful in reducing crime amongst the youth stating that "the more kids play the more skills they develop, they learn cooperation, discipline and working with a team without getting angry; it has had a lot of success bringing communities together ",
Barbados as the Caribbean's Champion and Host of Disability Cricket
On May 31, 2011, Hampshire Cricket announced that the Barbados Tourism Authority will become the Official Twenty20 Shirt Sponsor and Travel Partner to Hampshire Cricket and The Rose Bowl. Upon a previous visit to Barbados, Hampshire Cricket Group Commercial Director, Zac Toumazi said that Barbados' facilities and hospitality were "second to none" and that "We hope that, in our own way, we can bring awareness to the jewel in the Caribbean that is Barbados."
Might there be a possibility that similar arrangements can be made with disability cricket? Perhaps the Barbados Tourism Authority could consider reciprocal agreements with disability cricket programs in England, Australia, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Bangladesh and Nepal
If Barbados were to host all disability cricket tournaments, the potential for increased tourism would be significant. Regular cricket teams already visit Barbados annually and Test matches, especially between England and Australia alone bring in thousands, so the numbers would increase substantially.
In conclusion, creating a disability cricket program could reaffirm Barbados' position as leader in accessibility, inclusion and adaptive sports in the Caribbean. Moreover, this positive endeavour could contribute significantly to the enhancement of the initiative of "Fully Accessible Barbados".