England deaf cricketers gear up for new season
The England deaf cricket team are in the middle of some intense pre-season training ahead of what promises to be an exciting year.
They have with two domestic tours, a game against the Marylebone Cricket Club at Lord's and December's World Cup in New Zealand.
See Hear recently joined the players at one of their training camps where Stefan Pichowski, chairman of the England Cricket Association for the Deaf (ECAD), explained some of the fundamental differences between deaf and hearing cricket.
An obvious difference is the qualification criteria: players have to provide an audiogram proving their hearing loss and remove all hearing instruments during matches to create a level playing field.
Running between the wickets also represents a challenge.
There are enough incidents in the Test arena to show how tough it can be to get calling right even in hearing cricket - but in deaf cricket players look for anything as subtle as a shrug of the shoulder or the raising of an eyebrow from their partner.
According to Pichowski, though, when playing hearing sides this can actually be advantage, catching many a dozing fielder off guard.
When asked about sledging, Pichowski's face lights up.
"There's plenty of that," he says with a grin, before recalling how hearing umpires often compliment them on playing the game in a "quiet, gentlemanly manner", oblivious to the gamesmanship that has passed under the radar through glares and glowers, as well as the odd choice bit of British Sign Language.
For Mike O'Mahoney deaf cricket is about relaxing. In hearing teams there can be a sense of isolation, whether in the changing room, on the pitch, or in the bar.
As O'Mahoney says, in deaf cricket he can sign or lip-read without worrying he is missing out on anything. In short, he can just enjoy the cricket; surely the point of any sport.
Yes, the squad has the honour of representing England but, equally importantly, they are doing something they love in an environment in which they feel comfortable.
Amateurs they might be, but there is certainly no shortage of professionalism and the squad are, understandably, confident of bringing the World Cup home.
As Pichowski said: "It'd be nice to do something the hearing men's team haven't managed yet."