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From Reading to Barbados

21st August 2018

After three years of hard work in training sessions and travelling many miles around the country, with early starts on cold mornings for many, the UK women and girls squad was finally rewarded with a fantastic tour to Barbados in July.

This has been a truly magnificent joint effort, with everyone contributing to the funding of the trip, whether it be through rail station collections, raffles, quiz nights or from personal donations.

The total cost of the trip was in the region of £40,000, with around £18,000 coming from the squad, coaches and officials and the generous general public who threw almost £11,000 into our collection buckets too.

The rest came through the Primary Club [£4.5k], Brian Johnston Memorial Trust [£1.5k] and Manpower Group [£5k], who sponsored our kit.

However, this has been a three year programme and this development had been mainly funded by the aforementionedBJMT to the tune of around £18,000 , with The Primary Club contributing over £10,000 during this period too and of course, as ever the players have also dipped into their own pockets on many occasions, which once again shows their dedication to the cause.

This development programme started at Reading University in May 2015 and after three sessions quickly moved on to set up a permanent national training base at the wonderful Lambrook School near Ascot, through contacts at the local blind society, Berkshire Vision.

During 2016, three regional centres were also set up, again at Lambrook for the south, Worcester in the midlands and Wakefield for the north, with these being run by ECB level 2 coaches who are themselves visually impaired.

The national training sessions were organised with six week gaps and the local sessions filled the weekends in between.

There was also great help from sighted volunteers, without whom we would have struggled on many occasions, none more so than when we were actually on tour in the West Indies.

As the training progressed over the three years, all players improved their skill and fitness levels but we were still very unfortunate to lose some players to injury and illness and these people were very much in the thoughts of the team as they flew out to Barbados.

Our own tour squad was finalised in early 2018 and preparations for our stay on the island were ongoing, right up to the week before we travelled including regular Skype meetings with the West Indies blind cricket board.

After our return from such a successful trip we will have a break from international cricket with plenty of domestic competition to keep everyone busy until we meet again at the end of September.

Women and girls development will gain momentum from October, as we start the regional sessions again and search for new talent.

This will be funded through the same sources as previously but we are also hopeful of more support from the ECB as the next stage of the programme progresses.

There is new women's VI cricket being played in India and Pakistan, as well as in the blind education system in Nepal and our next step must be to look at arranging series against one of these opponents in the near future, as well as continuing our support of the development of the West Indies squad.

John Garbett

BCEW Development Director