Gordon Laidlaw has been there, done it and bought the t-shirt in Disability Cricket, though the former England World Cup winner admits to remaining highly determined to give back to the game and to Yorkshire this summer.
Laidlaw, 41, helped England’s Physical Disability side become world champions in 2015 with success in Bangladesh.
Born in Edinburgh but a Doncaster native, batter Laidlaw first started playing for Yorkshire almost 15 years ago.
He says the standard within the county’s Disability set-up has “come on 10-fold since I started playing”. But he plans to help keep driving things forward.
“When I started playing in 2009/10, there were two teams, but the structure wasn’t what it is now,” said Laidlaw, now retired from internationals.
“The close association with the county club and more support from the cricket board has helped develop and bring that on.
“Back in the early days when I started playing, we had talent. But the biggest drawback was mobility around the field.
“What I see now is a group who are young, fit and keen. Their fitness and mobility seems to be a lot better than what it was when I started. I guess that’s a reflection on the modern game.
“Certainly, during my England days, fitness was a massive thing and helped us win the World Cup in 2015. That was a standout factor, and it filters down to county level.
“Those young lads who I’ve seen are aspiring England players. Therefore, the way they live their lives and conduct themselves is significantly different to what it was back in, say, 2010.
“The way I see myself within the Yorkshire set-up now is more as a mentor or a guiding light having been there and done it so to speak. I’m really keen to give a bit back to Yorkshire.
“It’s about helping those lads who are aspiring to bigger and better things.
“I think there’s lot of talent there and this year can be a really positive year for us.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how we perform against some more senior, established county teams.”
Yorkshire’s senior Disability side, the D40 Tykes, are aiming for promotion from Division Two North this summer.
“There’s the potential there,” continued Laidlaw. “There are a lot of good cricketers around given we have brought the deaf players into the system. It used to just be Learning and Physical Disability.
“That raises the standard because they are able-bodied from a physical point of view.
“From what I’ve seen, having been around some of the winter sessions, there are some extremely positive signs.
“Although I didn’t play, the squad had two very useful friendlies down South against Essex and Middlesex over the Easter weekend. Looking at the scorecards and from the feedback I’ve had, there were plenty of positives.”
Yorkshire lost both of those aforementioned games, though Edward Denton claimed a maiden five-for against Middlesex and Luke Riley scored his first county fifty against Essex amongst other useful contributions.
“It shows they can compete, but there is still a way to go to compete at that top end,” said Laidlaw.
This summer is a huge one for Disability Cricket in general, not just Yorkshire, following a couple of disruptive years amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
Laidlaw continued: “It’s a big year in the sense that everybody is desperate to get back to the normality of a season.
“Covid will have impacted on Disability Cricket, with some more than others affected through shielding. To be active and playing cricket again will be big for a lot of people.
“It gives Disability Cricket as a whole footing to push on from this year.
“International tours are starting to happen again, which have been restricted for obvious years.
“If we can get promoted to a higher standard of cricket, the travelling might be more but it ensures Yorkshire are at the top and competing to be the best county in the country, which is where we want to be.
“I don’t need to tell you what Yorkshire Cricket means to people and we want Yorkshire Disability Cricket to reflect where the men’s and women’s teams are at the moment.
“That’s got to be the goal and what we strive towards.”
Laidlaw will be available to score runs and provide support for Tykes captain James O’Conner.
“Since I retired from England, I made a family commitment. But I want to give back to Disability Cricket.”
Laidlaw’s disability is a mild form of Cerebral Palsy called right-sided hemiplegia (“my right arm and leg are affected”).
His day job see him as a head of communications for the NHS in South Yorkshire, while he plays Yorkshire Cricket Southern Premier League for Warmsworth.
“I’ve played most of my cricket, growing up, in able-bodied cricket,” he said. “To be honest, that probably made me the player and person I am because it made me grow up faster.”
And Laidlaw is also keen to encourage more players to get involved in Disability Cricket, specifically with Yorkshire.
He added: “By raising performance, profile, coverage, we will encourage more people to come and play.
“Traditionally, people have maybe seen Disability Cricket as not a great standard. ‘If I’m playing club cricket, I don’t really want to be playing that as well’ – that sort of thing.
“But, if you watch the England stuff and the top end of county cricket, that is just not true.
“That’s hopefully a perception we can start to tackle at Yorkshire as we start getting results and performing.
“The ECB Disability Premier League has started over the last year or so, and we are seeing more of our lads getting put forward for that. That’s the next step into the England set-up.
“That raises the aspirations of people wanting to play Disability Cricket.
“In Yorkshire, the potential to attract cricketers into the set-up is massive, and there are opportunities there for people. We want people to get involved in our journey.”