Mike Brace CBE DL charts the history of blind cricket and reiterates the importance of the Primary Club’s funding
I was introduced to blind cricket in the 1960s when its presence was limited, almost exclusively, to special schools.
At this time 98% of children and young people with a vision impairment were educated in special schools, so there were enough to play team sports. Outside the education system there were very few sports or cricket clubs. Metro was formed in 1973 and immediately began to challenge the supremacy of WCOB, the old boys’ team from Worcester College for the Blind.
British Blind Sport (BBS) was established in the 1970s, bringing together the growing number of teams from all over England. Rules, sight classification and play area specifications were established.
Metro flourished, benefiting from the profile of their president, Brian Johnston, the BBC broadcaster and Test Match Special commentator. They played exhibition matches against VI and sighted teams, including an anniversary match at Lord’s against a number of England and Middlesex players.
The profile of VI cricket was highest in the 1990s with Johnston promoting the work of The Primary Club regularly on TMS. Johnston spoke at Metro’s 20th anniversary dinner at Lord’s in 1993 shortly before his death in early 1994.
Many vision-impaired people could not afford to play without the Club’s support
Clothing and equipment has also gone through a major overhaul. In the 1960s everything, including the ball and stumps, was white which created difficulties for those with some sight. We now have coloured balls, stumps and kits.
The process of integrated education of the vision impaired into mainstream schools has grown apace, with clubs now the main provider of sporting opportunities for the vision impaired and others with disabilities. The Primary Club’s funding, which has enabled teams to travel sometimes hundreds of miles to play, is more vital than ever. With roughly 70% of the vision-impaired in England of working age unemployed, many could not afford to play without the Primary Club’s support.