Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bowled over by Success of Contest; A Week at the International Committee of the Red Cross International Twenty20 Tournament Hammered Home to IAIn nAIRn What Cricket Can Achieve for the Lives of the Disabled

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bowled over by Success of Contest; A Week at the International Committee of the Red Cross International Twenty20 Tournament Hammered Home to IAIn nAIRn What Cricket Can Achieve for the Lives of the Disabled

Article excerpt

Gateshead-born batsman Iain nairn swapped Chesterle-street's second team to captain england to success in a global cricket tournament.

That in itself is highly unusual, but what took nairn aback was the competition's impact.

Played in front of huge crowds on the cricket-mad sub-continent, an estimated 10 to 20 million people watched live on television - more than saw this summer's ashes.

"When we landed in bangladesh pretty much only my mum, dad, brother and wife were really interested, and then more about whether I would get back safely," nairn says.

"to arrive to a press conference with over 100 journalists and an opening ceremony attended by the bangladeshi prime minister, a lady who has had hundreds of attempts on her life, was pretty special. Millions of people shared articles about the competition and 10 to 20 million people watched the games live on television, more than watched the ashes. That's a frightening statistic.

"It created a huge interest in bangladesh, where cricket is the sport. our warm-up game was due to be played in the stadium (in Mirpur) where the 2014 World twenty20 final was played. It was free entry and there were about 1,500 to 2,000 kids in there waiting for the rain to stop so we could get a game on.

"We were told there were massive queues outside in the street and if we had managed to get a game on there would have been a huge crowd.

"It goes to show the strength the countries on the sub-continent will have in the future. When you saw how much interest there was in bangladesh, it made you wonder what it could be like in India.

"normally when we're in the UK 100 people would be a good audience and they're watching, sat with picnics, not participating. hopefully it's allowed some people to see the benefits of the game."

nairn, a finance director at halo Thermal Imaging in darlington, was born with a defective right foot which was amputated as a toddler and considers himself fortunate to come from a country where the disabled are so well looked after.

as well as england and their hosts, India, Pakistan and afghanistan also competed in the competition, the first of its kind, and nairn hopes its success can help improve the lives of disabled people in those countries.

"out there you're lucky to have a job or even access to the shops if you're disabled and their opportunities for life are greatly diminished," he says.

"The UK's fantastic in that it gives you the opportunity to participate and the nhs is great in the operations it does. We've got far fewer players to chose from because they're much better at saving limbs than on the sub-continent.

"at the closing ceremony the red Cross said they were already working on the next tournament. I don't think even they believed it would get to the level of interest it achieved.

"The really big thing will be if they can do something with the ICC (the body which runs world cricket). The dream is that when the (50-over) World Cup is in england in 2019 there's a disability cup alongside it.

"bangladesh didn't have a single Paralympian at the last Games, so Turn to Page 20 From Page 19 hopefully they will see a growth in all disability sport now.

"Everyone knows the stats around what being active does for your health. You're 50% less likely to participate if you're disabled. It's probably to some degree our fault because we say we might not be able to do that. No matter what level your disability, you can.

"Cricket is a game you can participate in at your own speed. You don't have to be able to bowl at 90mph or smash the ball out of the ground. England organise cricket for the severely disabled. You see them playing in their wheelchairs and they love it. There are soft-ball versions of the game so everyone can get involved."

As well as the physical disability team Nairn captained, England also field sides for those with learning disabilities, the visually impaired and the deaf. …

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