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Hackney cricketers to play a part at the sport's greatest show on earth

PUBLISHED: 14:27 24 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:59 28 May 2019

The Super 1s project brings young people with disabilities in to cricket. Picture: Lords Taverners.

The Super 1s project brings young people with disabilities in to cricket. Picture: Lords Taverners.

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Seven participants from a disabled cricket club in Hackney have been selected as volunteers at the 2019 World Cup, which starts in London on May 30 and takes place around the country until July 14.

Members from Hackney Super 1s pose with the Cricket World Cup at Lord's, London. Picture: Lords Taverners.Members from Hackney Super 1s pose with the Cricket World Cup at Lord's, London. Picture: Lords Taverners.

In a recent interview with The Independent, England cricketer Joe Root spoke of spending less energy worrying about the things he can't do, and more time embracing what he can. There's a similar message to be taken from the Lord's Taverners' Super 1s programme.

Launched in 2013, the project gives people aged 12 to 25 with disabilities the chance to play regular and competitive cricket. In turn it introduces them to the rich rewards of playing a sport that may have previously been inaccessible to them.

"For a lot of parents of our participants, they aren't quite sure exactly of their (children's) limitations, and what they can actually achieve," says Mark Bond, Disability Cricket Project Manager with the Lord's Taverners.

"In Essex, Bradley is a wheelchair user who runs our Super 1s sessions. For parents to see a guy working in cricket like that - it helps to shift attitudes and make them realise: this is what my child can aspire to do, rather than thinking of the stuff that they can't."

The Super 1s project is thriving in Hackney. Under the stewardship of coach Alan Walsh, around 15 young cricketers with disabilities and learning difficulties gather once a week at Clissold Leisure Centre, where they can enjoy sessions of batting, bowling and fielding practice, and then two versions of cricket games.

Walsh thinks involving their members in the World Cup - for the England vs Australia game, no less - is a marvellous idea.

"They'll be part of the spectators services team," he explains, "directing people to their seats and showing them where the facilities are, while being a part of one of the biggest sporting events of the year.

"It's showing them what the top end of the game is about, as most (of our players) haven't been to a first-class cricket match before. When cricket was taken off of terrestrial TV, it stopped being the summer sport as people aren't exposed to it. In some cases, some of the people here had never seen or played cricket before."

Super 1s was founded in 2013. Picture: Lords Taverners.Super 1s was founded in 2013. Picture: Lords Taverners.

The Super 1s project lists its aims as developing the physical and mental wellbeing of players, helping them to make friends, engaging with positive role models and providing an environment for competition.

The project's 'hubs' - based in all 32 London boroughs as well as counties around the country - compete for a place at the finals, which are sometimes held at prestigious cricket stadiums like Lord's, Manchester's Old Trafford and Edgbaston, in Birmingham.

Hackney's team lost to Hillingdon in the final of the most recent London Super 1s competition, and the club has seen three players selected to play for Middlesex County Cricket Club's disabled squads. One of those is batsman and wicket-keeper Adam Hollingsworth.

"Being involved with the super 1s is fun, we get advice from people who have played and they can teach you some things that you never could do before," says the 20-year-old.

"For example, two years ago we were doing Super 1s training, and we got to meet two English cricket players. They wanted to help us train and one of them (Jonny Bairstow) helped me to understand much more about being a wicket-keeper."

For Bond, the best thing about the initiative is the genuine impact it has on people.

"I'm registered blind, and my first experience (of the sport) was a Taverners' funded programme; now I've got a job, live by myself and play blind cricket for England. It's great when the kids on the programme have the same opportunities, going in to employment and having more confidence talking to people."

For more information about Lord's Taverners Super 1s programme, click here.

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