William Baxter. Meet the Yorkshire disability all-round star who is chasing the two Ps. Promotion and the Paralympics.
Baxter, aged 26, is a sportsman of some repute.
A right-arm fast bowler who will be central to the Yorkshire D40 team’s hopes of promotion this summer, he is also a world leader in athletics with an eye on either Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028.
“I like to play lots of different sports, but cricket is my favourite,” said the Doncaster-born quick whose ability to swing the ball is one of his main assets.
William is deaf and has Cerebral Palsy and communicates for this article through his father Tony.
“When I was little, I watched my brothers James and Thomas play cricket and dreamt of following them,” he continued.
He has worked as an assistant greenkeeper at Doncaster Golf Club and volunteered on the ground staff at Doncaster Rovers FC pre the Coronavirus pandemic.
But cricket was the sport which caught his attention. He plays his club cricket in the Lincolnshire County League, for Haxey seconds – a team within the Doncaster postcode – and counts a 2019 clash against Brigg Town as his career highlight.
“It was my first five-wicket haul for Haxey, all bowled – 5-28 from 11.2 overs,” he recalled. “Brigg had won the league the year before. We’re big rivals, and we bowled them out for 69.”
His first match of 2022 will be for them on April 23 before Yorkshire’s fixtures start in May.
“We look like we have a strong team this year, with lots of new players and better training this year than we’ve had in the past,” he said. “Cheshire and Shropshire have both got strong teams as well, so they look like they will be our rivals.”
England learning disability bowler Alex Jervis told yorkshireccc.com last month that the county’s disability programme is in a good place.
Baxter points to the hard work put in by Owen Jervis, Alex’s dad, and others such as Mark Atkins and Russ Ingram, as instrumental and says: “I agree with Alex.
“The teams have been built up well over the last few years after a few problems here and there.”
Of course, he would like to follow in the footsteps of Jervis and play international cricket.
“I would like to play for England in the future, but the PD (physical disability) squad only play T20s at the moment, and I would say I’m better suited to the longer format,” he went on.
“My batting is an area which needs to improve.
“I need to be more like Ben Stokes! He can change a game on his own, so I’d like to be more like him if I can.
“I’ve watched him a few times live, including at the World Cup against Afghanistan at Old Trafford in 2019.”
Baxter, who received the 2013 Yorkshire Cricket Board Disability Achiever of the Year award, has already represented the North of England.
And he is no stranger to the international stage given he also excels at discus and shot-put.
“I was able to break the national records for shot-put and discus last year,” he said. “And I recorded the number one mark in the world at F36 for discus last year.
“I would love to go to the Paralympics and the World Games.
“I have been in the Cerebral Palsy World Games, which is below the Paralympics, and got three gold medals. I was also drafted in at the last minute to the 4×100m relay team and got a silver in that, which I was really happy with.”
Baxter is on the Paralympic development programme for Great Britain, but admits: “The discus, which is my best event, hasn’t been chosen in my category for Paris 2024.
“If I improve a lot with the shot-put, Paris is possible. But Los Angeles in 2028 is more realistic.
“My coach has said that I won’t be a mature thrower for another 10 years yet. It takes a lot of time to develop. So there is plenty of time.
“Bowling and shot-put require different actions with the body. So the better I get at bowling, the worse my shot-put gets.
“But I have a new strength and conditioning coach who is trying to work on maintaining my strength for both disciplines.”
That is a fairly scary prospect for batters across the Lincolnshire League and in county cricket, with Baxter keen to add to the 100 plus wickets he has to his name on the PlayCricket website.
“He loves his stats,” added father Tony. “Cricket has just been fantastic for William. It’s given him confidence, focus and friendships. A lot of joy.
“He’s had a fantastic life through cricket.”