In James O’Conner, captain of Yorkshire’s D40 Tykes side, the county have a cricketer of some repute.
A Welshman raised in Queensland, the 25-year-old off-spinner has found a home in God’s Own County, where he also plays for YPL North side Acomb.
As well as playing Premier League cricket in Yorkshire, O’Conner has played grade cricket in Queensland – for Gold Coast Dolphins – as well as representative cricket for South Queensland.
He has played with and against the likes of Michael Neser, Billy Stanlake and Sam Hain to name but a few.
O’Conner, who is hearing impaired, leads the D40 Tykes into a season where they are aiming for promotion from Division Two North.
And he is full of confidence ahead of 2022 for Yorkshire’s senior Disability side.
“I feel we have the ability to be one of the strongest D40 sides in all of England,” said the skipper.
“I’ve always said this, right back to my time playing grade cricket in Australia. ‘Culture precedes performance’.
“And at Yorkshire, we have a very strong culture, an understanding of our strengths and limitations. Because of that, I believes it makes us very strong.”
O’Conner leads a side whose player coach is England learning disability seamer Alex Jervis.
Also within the Yorkshire Disability structure are the D40 development side and the S9 Terriers, both of whom feed into the Tykes team. Joe Raw is captain of the former and Alistair Domville the latter.
The first aim for O’Conner’s Tykes is to finish top of the Division Two North, with Cheshire and Shropshire other strong contenders. If they achieve that, they will play the winner of Division Two South for the right to be promoted to Division One.
Their opening league game is against Derbyshire at Darley Abbey on Sunday May 1.
“We have our first games during the Easter weekend, two friendlies on a southern tour against Middlesex and Essex,” added O’Conner.
“They are both Division One teams, and if we beat them it will set us up for a strong start to the season.”
Off the field, O’Conner works as a teaching assistant and starts a University degree in teaching this September.
The trio of Yorkshire teams include players with a wide range of disabilities. For example, while O’Conner is hearing impaired, S9 Terriers captain Domville has cerebral palsy.
As a result, Domville, a batter, says: “One of my arms works a lot better than the other.”
Yorkshire Disability Cricket started in 1997, and Domville is one of only two ‘founding’ players who remain in action.
His side’s aims are not as clearcut as he is yet unsure which players he will have available.
“My role is to help to develop some of the younger players and maximise their potential,” he said. “You always want to win every game you play, but there a lot of ifs and buts in terms of which players will be available and what kind of disability you come up against.”
One who will definitely be available to Alistair is his wife Claire, a bowler with learning disabilities and one of two women in the Yorkshire Disability system.
“Before I met Alistair, I hadn’t shown an interest in cricket never mind play it,” she said. “But since I’ve been with him, I have loved getting involved.
“I’m really proud to play for Yorkshire.”
“People join the team and are scared to say boo to a goose. But once they’ve played a season, they are completely different people with their own attributes.
“Alistair’s is that he can make himself heard from anywhere on the pitch, and even when he’s not meant to be on the pitch!
“I’m not just saying this because he’s my husband, but he’s a brilliant captain.”
The D40 development side, captained by Raw – who has a physical disability, aims to provide a bridge from soft ball to hard ball county cricket.
This is a team which is critical to the future success of Yorkshire Disability cricket.
A key part of Raw’s role is to blend regular county players with aspiring soft ball talent, ensuring a definite pathway for the county’s disability cricketers.
They will play a number of local clubs who have supported disability cricket for a number of years.
For any new players keen to give involved, contact [email protected].