Ian Martin was in the British Navy and in the early nineties he fought in the Gulf War too. He was a strong and active young man. Then one day he was struck by neuromuscular disease.
It would only be natural for a strapping lad like him to be gripped by depression, but not Ian Martin. This former soldier has taken up a war again. This time his war is for those, who like him, have lost the ability to lead normal lives. And the weapon he uses in this war is cricket.
Ian has loved cricket since his childhood. His love for the sport increased even further when he joined the British Navy in 1987. His service in the navy took him to the Far East and Australia. In 1991 he fought in the Gulf War.
Later when Ian was working on a US Navy mission in Scotland, he was diagnosed with neuromuscular disorder. He gradually began to lose his ability to move around. He had to leave the navy. Cricket was his only source of joy in those dark days.
It was then that he began to think about those who suffered from such physical disabilities who loved sports. Why should they be deprived from the game? Surely they too had the right to play and to represent their country. This was happening in other sports, but the cricket management didn’t seem to think about this.
Being a cricket fanatic himself, he realised how frustrating it was to be deprived from the sport. He then worked on arranging cricket games for the disabled through the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). And he is determined to make cricket for disabled into a professional sport too.
ECB arranged for the physically disabled to play domestic cricket from 1999. Ian Martin then began pondering on how to take this to an international level.
Ian Martin has been head of ECB’s disability cricket wing since 2007. He said, “England has had cricket for the physically disabled since 1999. It is very competitive. But at one time I began to think, who are our competitors? Who will the English physically disabled cricketers prove their competence against? That is why international disability cricket is being organised.”
Martin came to Bangladesh in 2014. He shared his thoughts with the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He said Bangladesh was in the forefront among the countries interested in cricket for the disabled, “I visited Bangladesh in 2014. I met with BCB and ICRC. Since then BCB and ICRC has facilitated physically disabled Bangladeshi cricketers to represent their country at an international level.”
Ian uses a wheelchair. He was an avid cricket player at one time and so understands the sufferings of the disabled. He said, “They like cricket. They shouldn’t be deprived from playing due to physical disability. They too have the right to represent the country.”
Martin wants support from the International Cricket Council (ICC). He is a bit disappointed that ICC hasn’t really attached that much importance to disability cricket.
This English dreamer believes that if the cricket boards of all cricket playing nations pays importance to this, ICC will be bound to take this into consideration. He said, “ICC said it will take up a work plan in this regard towards the end of the year. Let’s see what happens.”
* This report appeared in Prothom Alo online and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir