Five Yorkshire stars, including four D40 national champions, have been selected across two England Disability squads for respective pre-Christmas assignments.
Uncapped duo James O’Conner and Cameron Sweeney have joined Ashes winner Henry Wainman in the squad for the Deaf World Cup in Qatar, running from December 3 to December 12.
Rob Hewitt and Alex Jervis have been selected for England’s Learning Disability squad for next month’s tri-series in South Africa, also involving Australia. That runs from November 10 to November 19.
Both tournaments are T20 competitions.
Hewitt, Jervis, O’Conner and Sweeney all starred for Yorkshire in this summer’s National Quest League D40 title triumph.
Yorkshire president Jane Powell doubles up as the ECB’s Disability Performance manager – the latter is her day job – and she said: “All of our Yorkshire players will bring a range of attributes to the squads, and we’re delighted for them.
“With the four D40 guys, there’s nothing quite like being a part of a winning squad. And I know the rest of the squad will be delighted for these four guys in particular.
“It’s just like Rooty, Jonny, Brooky, Dawid and Rash. We’re all proud of them playing in a World Cup at present. And this is just the same.”
Hewitt, Jervis and Wainman are England regulars, but this is new territory for O’Conner and Sweeney.
O’Conner is an all-rounder who bowls off-spin and spent a lot of his youth in Queensland, where he played grade cricket against Michael Neser, Billy Stanlake and Sam Hain to name but a few. He started the most recent summer as Yorkshire’s D40 captain before stepping back due to other commitments and to concentrate on his game.
Batter Sweeney, who can also keep wicket, is from the North East. He has also played Deaf football for Sunderland as a goalkeeper.
Powell said: “Cameron is a very good hard-hitting batter. He’s plays with a good straight bat, and he’s powerful. He’s only going to get better. He plays for Yorkshire because Durham don’t have a D40 team. He hit a quick-fire 50 in the first game of the season, and that brought him to our attention.
“It has to help that he’s played football. The big thing at World Cups is the ability to handle pressure. The more you’ve played other sports, the more you’ve been under pressure at different times.
“He has kept occasionally for Yorkshire, so he will probably be a reserve keeper if we need him.”
On O’Conner, she continued: “James’s is an experienced cricketer who we’re hoping will settle in quickly.
“His captaincy will help, I’m sure, and he’s also played in the Disability Premier League, which has been a big bonus for all of the guys because they all get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
“That’s a big thing for us as coaches and management. If someone else knows your strengths and weaknesses, you have to play well. If you can get wickets or runs in that situation, it shows you have the ability to play at that next level.
“James is a wily spinner. He’s someone who has an interesting run-up. He stops, starts and goes again, and that can be quite off-putting to face.”
All-rounder Wainman won the Deaf Ashes in Australia last July, so adding success at the World Cup to that would be quite the double: “It certainly would,” said Powell. “That would be a brilliant achievement for Henry.”
On the Learning Disability tour, Powell said: “I don’t think the Learning Disability squad have ever lost a series, which is quite a pressure in itself. They’ll be very keen to maintain that tradition.”
England’s Physical Disability squad are also set to tour India in the New Year, and Yorkshire’s president is due to travel on all three respective tours.
“Disability cricket is in a great place,” she added. “What we need to do is shout about it. The guys are getting great opportunities.
“It’s just a fantastic environment to be involved in.
“I’m sure there are people out there who don’t realise they could qualify for these teams. It’s almost like a hidden treasure. They get a lot of support from the ECB, and players can live out their dreams.”