x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Former cricketers bat and bowl for children with special needs

Former English cricketers joined young people with disabilities in a game aimed at raising awareness about those with special needs.

DUBAI // An 11-year-old felt like a superstar after a cricket match between former England cricketers and pupils with disabilities.

The game highlighted how the sport can encourage camaraderie, competition and confidence among those with special needs.

Young adults from the Al Noor training centre pitted their batting and bowling skills against the former England captain Mike Gatting, who was part of a group from the Lord’s Taverners, a British charity that raises funds for young people with special needs.

“Cricket teaches you a lot of things; like working together with teammates, coping with losing and the thrill of winning,” said Gatting, who in 1986 was the last English captain to win the Ashes series on Australian soil, until England’s win last year. “Sport is a great thing for kids to help them enjoy life to the fullest of their ability.”

Al Noor centre provides training and support for children and young adults who have a range of disabilities including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism.

At the game yesterday, a group of about 50 youngsters with disabilities, many strapped into wheelchairs, cheered as their classmates smashed boundaries, hit sixes and took wickets.

“I like batting,” said Ahad Ali, 11, a Pakistani pupil with a mild developmental delay. “Say my name is ‘superstar’. Put my name in the paper, magazine. I was good, yes?”

Firas Wathik Samarrai, 31, a US national with Down syndrome, said he enjoyed batting and bowling.

“I like to play,” said Samarrai. “It will show me I am a good player. I want to be in the national team. I watch cricket also on TV.”

The pupils darted across the indoor arena, swooping down on balls to shouts of “catch it”.

The British charity has been visiting Dubai for eight years to support local groups and raise awareness, said Chris Tarrant, a British television presenter best known for hosting Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

“Playing cricket and other sports gives them motivation and agility,” said Tarrant, a former president of the Taverners group.

“We promote taking up a sport at any age for people with disabilities. Sport gives them a second chance.”

The charity has been donating funds to Al Noor and to two other Dubai special-needs groups for the past five years. The exact amount of funds raised was not available.

rtalwar@thenational.ae