Blind Cricket: A big hit for Perth’s vision-impaired


Supplied by Tony Sutton

The Venetians vs Keen as Mustard

Joshua Smith, Reporter

When considering viable sports for the vision-impaired, one which includes throwing, hitting and retrieving a small ball travelling at high speeds is not the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet, blind cricket is growing in leaps and bounds in Australia and becoming one of the most popular sports for the vision-impaired community around the world.

Bradley Brider, captain of Perth’s own blind cricket team, The Venetians, says that while there is certainly a competitive edge to the sport, the social aspect of the game can often be just as important to members of Perth’s vision-impaired community.

“It’s a great way to improve the social life of a lot of the guys here. They can talk to people that face the same situations they do,” he said.

Brider believes the community created by the sport helps people to overcome some internal struggles.

“There’s a great mental battle with sight. Overcoming that, when you’ve got your regulars with you and you can see their life experiences is great.”

The game follows many of the core rules of regular cricket but has some key differences. The ball is bowled underarm and made of hard plastic, and it’s filled with ball bearings so that players can hear the ball as it travels along the ground.

Each 11-man blind cricket team has players with different tiers of blindness: totally blind, known as B1; partially-blind, known as B2; and partially-sighted, known as B3.

Brider explained that B2 people can see clearly up to two metres how most people can see up to 60, and B3 people can see clearly up to six metres.

An official team is required to have at least four B1 players, three B2 players, and four B3 players.

B1 players are required to wear blackout sunglasses and cannot get out by being stumped. They are also allowed to take catches on the bounce.

The stumps are larger than those in a regular cricket game and are painted fluorescent colours so that partially-blind and partially-sighted players can orientate themselves.

Verbal cues also play a crucial role in the game, and the bowler must shout “play” as they release the ball.

While Perth’s local league is fully self-funded, in 2017 blind cricket became the first Australian non-Paralympic disability sport to have its national teams fully funded thanks to Cricket Australia and the Commonwealth Bank.

President of the WA Blind Cricket Club Tony Sutton said the primary goal of Blind Cricket WA is to spread awareness of the sport and attract new players.

He said many visual-impaired people aren’t willing to give the game a try.

“They’ve probably come through school and they’d be the last one chosen for a team. Then they’re playing regular red-ball cricket and they can’t compete, so then they don’t want to bother.”

Sutton said blind cricket gives these people an opportunity to play on a level playing field.

His concern is that as current players get older and retire, if new players don’t join at the same rate the sport might slowly die down.

On top of keeping the sport alive, however, the reason Sutton is so passionate about new recruits is the opportunities the sport provides for the vision-impaired.

“A player could be here in Perth on a Sunday, and next week be playing in Geelong for the nationals. From there, they could get selected to play for international teams.”

Perth has had three players represent Australia internationally – Brider being one of them – and Sutton said that this season was the first time Perth had a full team big enough to compete in the nationals in Geelong.

According to Sutton, blind cricket has seen an even larger surge in growth overseas, with some countries recently having introduced a professional league.

“If you play for Sri Lanka, India or Pakistan, you’re a paid player.”

England has also had increased funding for its national team after their success in the 2012 Paralympics.

While blind cricket may not be the most orthodox of sports, it certainly makes for a fun watch and the benefits it provides to the vision-impaired community of WA are undeniable.

To find out more about Blind Cricket Australia, click here.

For local match fixtures or to find out more about The Venetians, check out their Facebook page.