It is in a car park outside Northcott Disability Services in Parramatta where we find a group of guys, some in motorised wheelchairs, some on foot, playing what looks very much like cricket. In fact, it’s a first-of-its-kind Adaptive Cricket game, which allows people of all abilities to play a new style of inclusive cricket.
The game has been five years in the making and developed by the Recreation Service at Northcott. Earlier last year Northcott physiotherapist Mitchell got in touch with TAD to find out if it would be possible to invent a cricket bat that would work for people who use a wheelchair and have no upper body use.
The task was given to TAD volunteer Alan Stone, who after meeting with the team at Northcott, got to work making prototypes of the bat. After each prototype the bat was trialled and the further developed.
“The only thing that didn’t change was the bat itself,” explains Alan. “It was the mountings that needed to be developed, as we wanted it to be able to attach to every kind of motorised wheelchair.” This is what proved the most challenging. Alan says, “There are so many different wheelchairs, each with its own unique construction, which made conventional clamping or bolt on methods impractical.” So Alan worked out a one size fits all solution.
“I borrowed my wife’s yoga mat and glued that to an MDF board to protect the wheelchairs. Then I routed some slots into the MDF and used double sided hook and loop fasteners to hang the board off the chair’s arm rests. For further stability, I put tie downs through the slots and strapped it to the chair – which is much preferable to bolting it on.”
Alan mounted the bat on a rail and onto the MDF board which allowed the bat to slide through roughly one metre. This enabled it to be used for left and right handed batsmen.
The bat is also able to tilt which gives the batsman many more stroke options and when the bat is fully forward, batsmen without much head movement are able to see the bat no matter where their head is positioned.
The bat was being trialled with a commercially available bowling machine. Alan is modifying this to enable a wheelchair user to run their chair up a customised ramp, allowing the force of the wheelchair to tip the trigger switch and launch the ball. At the time of print, Alan is still fine tuning this component, widening and lengthening the ramp to give the wheelchairs better access.
The bat itself is about twice the width of a regular cricket bat with a similar shape. “Originally I was designing the bat purely to deflect the ball off the bat,” says Alan. “But I’ve been amazed at the skill of the guys in the wheelchairs, they have quick manoeuvrability and are able to control the bat’s positioning very well.”
Ben has Arthogryposis, a condition characterised by the immobility of one or more joints. He has been instrumental in developing the concept for Adaptive Cricket. He said, “It’s been exciting to develop a new wheelchair sport that everyone can play. I’m proud that we’ve been able to take it this far. We’re hoping that someone out there will see what we’ve done and give us the support to ultimately start a competition. I know I would definitely play. I’m looking forward to being able to experience the camaraderie that comes with playing in a team sport.”
For Alan, being involved in the project has been very worthwhile, “I think the best part of the project has been seeing the enthusiasm from people – these are fiercely competitive athletes – and it’s exciting to develop something that they will take even further.”