England’s Physical Disability squad head to India tomorrow for a five-match T20 series – and there is a significant Yorkshire presence both on and off the field.
On the field, Scholes wicketkeeper-batter Liam Thomas is the only county representative.
Off it, the squad will be lead by head coach Ben Silver, a high performance coach at Headingley. Another high performance coach at Yorkshire, Jared Warner, will be his assistant.
Yorkshire president Jane Powell is also touring as the ECB’s disability performance manager.
For England’s PD squad, this will be the first international series at home or abroad since the summer of 2019 when they lost the World Series final to India on home soil.
But they have since been playing plenty of summer showcase fixtures, building confidence that they can head into India’s backyard and get their own back.
The series starts and ends in Ahmedabad, running from this coming Sunday (January 28) to Tuesday February 6. The final fixture is inside the Narendra Modi Stadium, where the November’s One-Day World Cup final was played between India and Australia. The first two fixtures are at the venue’s B ground.
“It will be a major challenge going over to play India in India,” said Thomas.
“I, for one, have never done it before. I’ve been to Dubai and Bangladesh. But this is a really exciting prospect. Hopefully we can go over there and win.”
England’s senior men are also in India for a Test tour starting this week, with it widely accepted as the toughest task in world cricket.
Is that also true in Physical Disability Cricket?
Thomas continued: “100 percent, yes, because conditions are totally alien to us and with the hype there is – they just love their cricket and are really passionate when you play against them.
“We just don’t know what to expect. It might not be 11 players on the field we’re facing, we could have a significant number of fans cheering against us as well.
“It will definitely be the toughest thing we have to do.”
The squad have been training together under Silver’s leadership, and they have been told to expect the unexpected on tour.
“We need to be very reactive and let stuff happen. A phrase we have been using is, ‘Embrace the chaos’,” said Thomas.
“It is exciting. Personally, I usually like a bit of structure and routine, but I’m looking forward to a different challenge – something we’ve not faced before.”
Silver added to that, saying: “I played in India myself 12 years ago, and it is very much that.
“Our operations manager has said it is one of those things where the bus will either be 30 minutes early or two hours late. But I think we’ll be fine.
“The players have challenges they face in every day life, so they will be ok on that front.”
Thomas added: “If we adapt and adapt well, I think we’ll win.”
Silver has been working at Yorkshire on the girls pathway for just under a year now and is also the head coach of the county’s senior women’s team. He has previous disability experience working with the England Learning Disability team.
“We’re in a good place,” he added.
“Last summer, we beat some county Academies, and the guys play a good level of cricket away from the England stuff. We also beat a strong MCC side the summer before last. We’re confident we can go over there and win.”
Thomas, meanwhile, has taken annual leave from his job with the Yorkshire Water Board to tour India.
He spoke to the Yorkshire website at the height of the Covid pandemic for a feature on some fundraising he was doing.
Since then, the disability landscape has changed quite significantly – and definitely for the better.
Given other commitments, Thomas is by no means a regular in Yorkshire’s National Quest team which won the league last year. But he is nevertheless delighted with their progress and achievements.
He said: “It’s fantastic to see what they’re doing at Yorkshire and how far they’ve come.
“I played one game last year when they were short of a keeper. I speak to Owen Jervis quite a bit, and I’ll try and help out when my diary allows.
“We’re all very proud of how things have progressed.
“All we want to do within all disability sport – cricket or the Paralympics, for example – is showcase what we can do.
“I just want to help create that awareness so that anybody with a disability who loves sport feels like they can get involved.”
Photographs courtesy of Liam Thomas and Ben Silver.