India 2005 Tour Report...
The England Deaf Cricket team flew to India on 11th November 2005 to complete in only the second World Cup event for cricketers who are deaf. The tour included five days at a training camp in Kanpur and then matches against 8 other cricketing countries cumulating in the Final on 27th November.
Spirits were high as the squad set off on the long journey through Doha to Bombay, then Lucknow finishing with a life-changing experience coach journey to Kanpur – all were determined to do well.
The squad comprised of three players who had played against Australia in the First World Cup final in 1996. Of the fifteen Squad that toured Australia in the Deaf Ashes Series in 2004, nine players remained.
The loss of Mark Woodman, a 39-year-old seamer who had played over 50 games for Devon in the Minor Counties competition was overshadowed by the presence of young hungry players determined to do well on the highest stage of their sporting lives.
Prior to the Tour, some training weekends were held in Durham, Derby and Worcester which included a Bon Voyage Meal. That meal included family and friends and Special Guest MCC President Robin Marlar that generated a strong feeling that the country was right behind us.
On arrival in Kanpur, the weather was hot and humid which assisted with acclimatisation for the real tests ahead. It was immediately apparent that the pitches with its variable low bounce and balls which became ineffective after a matter of overs would be completely different to anything we had experienced before.
The Landmark Hotel, set a real high standard - a superb venue with excellent modern facilities complemented by the Green Park Oval – a test match ground in its own right. The hospitability offered by the Kanpur Hotel, groundstaff, coaches and players was overwhelming and made the whole team feel very privileged to be there. Our newest recruit, James Dixon celebrated his 18th birthday while in Kanpur, which is one birthday he is unlikely to forget.
After a tough warm up match, the team travelled on an exhilarating while knuckle ride through the dark to Lucknow. No-one (except for one in the back) dared to sleep as the coach made its way pass all kinds of vehicles, some without lights completing for the same stretch of road, no matter what direction they were coming in!!
The welcome ceremony provided the opportunity to see the other teams at close quarters. It was clearly evident that the Australians, Indians and Pakistan squads seemed suitably tense (fitness wise) for the challenges that lay ahead.
THE WORLD CUP
The first taste of action was against Sri Lanka played on a low slow wicket which set the pattern for most of the games throughout the tournament. England reached 203 for 9 built around a composed knock from Chris Hughes (84 not out). After initially coming to terms with the white balls early in the innings, the England bowlers asserted their authority and bowled out Sri Lanka for 107 to win by 96 runs with Paul Allen and Stephen George bagging 4 for 12 and 3 for 30 respectively.
The second game against the World Champions Australia at the venue for the Final, the K.D.Singh Babu Stadium (a test match ground) saw England bat themselves into a strong position of ascendancy thanks to a strong partnership between Umesh Valjee (73) and Mike O’Mahony (39) ably supported by Chris Hughes (32) before a late collapse in the innings left Australia needing 215 to win. At the half way stage, the Australians looked well set at 126 for 2 after 26 overs, however all the bowlers led by Stefan Pichowski (3 for 46) and Darrel Sykes (2 for 30) fought back strongly to leave Australia reeling at 195 for 9 off 42 overs. Despite near misses, the Australians were left with 10 to win off the last over and 8 off the last three balls. Alas, the number 8 managed to find the boundary ropes twice to win the game with one wicket and one ball to spare. It was a truly epic encounter.
The England Team bounced back with an easy 290 run win over Nepal with batsmen and bowlers taking the opportunity to find some form. Ben Young anchored the innings with his first one day century for England (107) ably supported by Stefan Pichowski (55) and Matthew Everett on his debut (77) scoring their first fifties for England. Mike O’Mahony (48) provided some late momentum. It was the highest ever one day score by an England side as they reached 362 for 6 off their allocated 50 overs. The bowlers followed suit with Farooq taking five wickets on his international debut (5 for 32) which won the man of the match award and fellow opening partner Peter Wood taking (3 for 22) and back up bowler James Dixon (2 for 7). Both Matthew and James were making their debuts at just 18 years of age and it was pleasing for everyone to see both do so well.
The match against India revolved around the toss which was won by India batting in favourable conditions to register 248 all out with a number of contributions throughout the team. Darrel Sykes took an excellent 5 for 46 to claim his first match ball. The captain, Umesh Valjee replied with an even better first century in one day cricket of his own, (which won the man of the match award) with support from Ben Young who hit 43. Unfortunately no-one else stayed with the captain and England ran out of steam with the score at 198. The run out of Chris Hughes proved an ominous sign.
Once again, England bounced back with a close 8 run victory over the South Africans. Taking the opportunity to rest some key players, England batted first and achieved 221 for 8 with stand-in captain Mike O’Mahony hitting 56 along with opener, Stefan Pichowski with a second half century (55). South Africa produced a great response needing 12 off the last over with one wicket at the crease. Of note, Paul Allen took 3 for 36 and Peter Wood bowled at excellent over at the death to secure the win.
England again rested some players when tackling New Zealand and after being put into bat, scored 234 for 5 with contributions from Ben Young (85), Stefan Pichowski (41 not out) and Nick Doyle (36). Peter Woods and Darrell Sykes took three wickets a piece as New Zealand was dismissed for 56.
A very interesting encounter with Pakistan seemed once again directly affected by the toss which Pakistan won. They elected to bat scoring 261 for 9, after being 132 for 1 after 16 overs. Stephen George (3 for 45) and Paul Allen (2 for 42) took the plaudits. A strong feeling prevailed that Pakistan were heavily reliant on two stroke players who played extremely aggressively. However Pakistan also boasts two excellent opening bowlers who took advantage of the decaying pitch with its erratic low bounce to bowl England out for 98 despite 25 from Nick Doyle to achieve some respectability. Once again there was a crucial run out at the top of the order.
The final group match saw England needing to beat Bangladesh to be sure of qualifying for the semi finals. This was achieved with a minimum of fuss winning the toss and inserting Bangladesh after heavy dew and mist in the morning and bowling the side out for 114. Once again, Darrel Sykes took the match ball with figures of 5 for 28, supported by Mike O’Mahony and Stefan Pichowski who took two wickets each. Chris Hughes (49 not out) and Matthew Everett (36) ensured England won comfortably by 8 wickets.
The Semi Final against Australia at the same venue saw a similar outcast morning with heavy dew on the outfield. Australia won the toss and elected to bat scoring 153 all out, after some brilliant bowling and fielding by the whole England team, led by Paul Allen (4 for 25) and Stefan Pichowski (3 for 7). A century opening partnership between Hughes (49) and Ben Young (50) ensured a solid foundation for victory which was richly deserved. It was a consummate team victory and the first time the World Champions had ever been beaten. Alas, the celebrating had to be cut short as the final was the very next day.
The Final against the host nation, surprise winners in the Semi Final over Pakistan at the KD Singh Babu Stadium also saw similar overcast conditions which made the judgement call at the toss difficult. Confident after two good wins on the trot, England won the toss and elected to field. After struggling with the wet ball, England came back strongly to restrict India to 218 for 9 with Paul Allen, Stephen George and Mohammed Farooq the pick of the bowlers with two wickets a piece. However, England struggled to develop any momentum scoring only 41 runs off 20 overs as the Indians bowlers used the pitch that was getting lower and slower with skill and cunning. Despite some adventurous hitting and running from Umesh Valjee (34) and Mike O’Mahony (29), the task proved too great and the innings fell away for only 139 leaving India the victors by a flattering 79 runs.
Looking back on the tour, it will prove a watershed for many of the players as they respond to the standards that the tour presented, and knowing what is needed to become World Champions. It is hoped that this exposure to the climate, the pressures and challenges will enable them to improve their game. Indeed, the Australians fielded no less than seven Cricketers with First Grade experience and one full New South Wales State representative. Pakistan had three current First Class Cricketers in their line up and India had two. All were positively aggressive in everything they did, creating the platform to perform with greater freedom with the bat and create more pressure with the ball. It became a game of mental and physical discipline, which the stronger teams in the tournament including England were better equipped to win.
England can look back with pride on finishing second in the World Cup, in a foreign continent with the challenges that it brings on and off the pitch, and against teams asking different questions of the players in every game. Undoubtedly, this will be tinged with the disappointment that unlike the Semi Final, we did not play to our full potential in the Final. Clearly, when we do, we are capable of beating anyone as the two games against Australia showed. The management team can take credit in selecting wisely throughout the tournament to pick the strongest team for the big matches and get players into form or rest when required.
In addition, arrangements for refreshments and drinks were quickly put into place for every game to ensure that the players had everything that they needed.
The top four countries in the tournament clearly show that the standard of the game has risen immeasurably since the First World Cup in 1996. South Africa and Bangladesh are also showing signs of developing rapidly. All countries will continue to develop, with the right support and backing, and England cannot therefore rest on its laurels.
India proved a remarkable experience with the width and dept of its culture, outlook on life and animals, traffic without any semblance of order, noise particularly on the streets, food, weather, different environments throughout the day from the dew in the morning to the oppressive heat of the afternoons and silence accompanying the rapid descend of darkness during the evenings, the pace of life (or lack of!) and genuine and sincere hospitality.
It was very humble experience to walk outside of the lovely hotels and step over people in the street who did not show any resentment or anger about perceived imbalance in the social order. It does serve to remind us not to take things for granted.
It was good to see that we all care deeply about our performances for England and our team mates and take great pride in representing our country. When one looks in the eyes of the Indian people, their love of cricket brings it home, and that experience will make us better cricketers and human beings.
The immediate focus is on the next international tournament against Pakistan in England in August 2006. The Australians have expressed a very keen desire to complete again for the Ashes in England in the summer of 2008. All the players will need to work to improve their skills with the helpful guidance of the coaches and management team.
In addition, a recruitment drive to find more good players is also needed to raise the standard and depth of the England side. It is imperative that the England Team moves forward and is ready for the physical and mental challenges to complete and win.
Many thanks must go to the tour committee including the Team Manager, Jeff Levick, the Team Coach – Ron Young, the Tour Manager – Martin Redshaw, the Team Physiotherapist – Helen Ashton, the Scorer – David Priestly, the Interpreter – Sula Gleeson and to Roger Fuggle, the ECB representative who showed his valuable nous particularly in Delhi to get the team home. Thanks must also go to Roger Fuggle and Martin Redshaw for their assistance in sorting out the funding for the trip.
Thanks must also go to the firms such as ATP International Sports Events Ltd for their assistance with hotels and flights; Pinstripe Print Group in Birmingham publishing the tour programmes; Dent, Raven and Marsdens, a solicitors firm in the North East who contributed some funding; Island Cricket in Devon and the many individuals who sponsored the team. In addition, appreciation must be extended to Hugh Morris of the ECB who provided much of the funding and support. Finally, thanks must also be expressed to Derbyshire and Worcestershire County Cricket Clubs for their support during the training weekends. I hope that we can build upon the relationship with the National Academy to build a stronger national deaf cricket team for the future.
Finally, one must remember the patient wives, girlfriends and families who endured nearly five weeks without their partners. Their support has been invaluable throughout the training weekends, trials and the tour itself.
“They are behind the scenes never wanting to share the glory.
Without them,….. there would be no story”
England Deaf Cricket.