FORMER ECB Disability Cricketer of the Year joins Cheshire Cricket Board

FORMER ECB Disability Cricketer of the Year Chris Edwards has joined the staff of Cheshire Cricket Board Limited. The 19-year-old from Caldy, who has represented the England Learning Disability team since 2008, officially began his part-time post with the Board over the Easter break.
Chris, who scooped top honours alongside Graeme Swann and Katherine Brunt at the 2010 ECB Cricketer of the Year Awards, will be based on the Wirral, where he will deliver in school and club settings as well as on Cheshire's Junior Development Programme.
"This a dream job for me, and I'm very excited about it," said Chris, who was diagnosed with autism aged three.
"This is something I have wanted for a long, long time. I have battled against a learning disability for most of my life and I didn't want to do a job that I wouldn't enjoy.
"All I ever wanted to do was play cricket and now I have been given the chance to be a professional coach, to give the something back for what the game has given to me.
He added: "I want to thank Cheshire Cricket Board for giving me this opportunity."

Chris's post has been made possible thanks to help from the newly-formed Cheshire Cricket Trust, which through support and donations aims to facilitate the playing and development of cricket for everyone in Cheshire on a recreational basis to improve their conditions of life.

Chris will spend the majority of his time working in schools on the Wirral, supporting Cheshire's full time Development and Coaching Officer Owen Williamson.
"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "I want the kids to know it's not all about football and rugby, but that cricket is a great sport to play and be involved in.
"I am sure it will be a challenge, and I will have to adapt to the different coaching environments but the other Cheshire coaches will be a big help for me. I've shadowed Owen on the Wirral for a while now and have already picked up lots of ideas. I am keen to learn and can't wait to get stuck in."

Chris's lifelong love of cricket began aged five at Ellery Park, then a mild learning difficulties school based in Wallasey. After a chance encounter with a Kwik Cricket set in the school cupboard, Chris discovered he was a natural and he soon caught the eye of the school staff.
He revealed: "I remember it was a really hot summer's day, and we couldn't be bothered playing football any longer.
"We discovered a cricket set in the cupboard, and took it out onto the grass. It was one of those sets with the blue bats and stumps that said Milk in Action because I think they were the sponsors at the time.
Keith Beggs, who was the school caretaker, saw me playing and he spotted my talent straight away. He went to the head teacher and asked what he could do to help me and those others who wanted to play cricket.
"The school made some enquiries and Keith was invited to attend a coaching course (the old ECB Level 1) with Cheshire.
"We eventually got a school team together and started to enter competitions in Merseyside. You only got to bat for two overs, but I was six years old and it seemed a lot of fun.
"Once I showed an interest in cricket, others seemed to follow it was like we were leaving a legacy. We had quite a strong team at one point."

Chris left Ellery Park before the start of his final year after the school became a centre for children with severe learning difficulties. Together with some of his classmates, he moved to nearby St Joseph's where a satellite class was established with some of the former Ellery Park pupils.
And though cricket was by no means top of the school or sporting agenda, Chris was hooked and now practising regularly with the Cheshire Disability squad.
He explained: "After Keith passed his Level One, he was appointed coach of the Disability squad by (Cheshire Cricket Board Director of Cricket) Richard Newton.
"I can still remember my first game for them, it was an incrediball match away at Nottingham.
"I was only eight years old and the match was 40 overs long. I took two for 31 off eight overs, and both my wickets came from full tosses!
"It was a long day, but playing cricket was all I wanted to do. I was hooked.
"It was great playing against other people like me, and you get to know each other quite well. Some had some very inspiring stories."

Fast forward to 2012 and Chris is now one of Cheshire's longest serving players, despite being just 19 years old. His performances at county level, including a career best 108 not out versus rivals Yorkshire, helped to attract the attention of the national selectors.
Chris made his England Learning Disabilities debut against county champions Lancashire in 2008, scoring an unbeaten 64 to underline his enormous potential. The following year he was selected for the Tri Nations tournament against Australia and South Africa in Melbourne, which is recognised as the MLD (Moderate Learning Difficulties) World Championship.
"I can still remember getting a letter from Mike Gatting to say I had been picked for the England tour", said Chris. "The letter listed all the things I would need to take with me. It was like packing for a school trip! Our first game was against Australia at the MCG. It was amazing to play there, like a dream come true. The stadium holds around 95,000 people but I guess there were no more than 95 when we played there. We didn't care though.
"When you walk down the tunnel out onto the field it's difficult to put into words what it feels like. We got thrashed but it didn't matter."
The next day England beat South Africa, with Chris contributing 53 in a man-of-the-match performance. The final was a rematch with the Aussies at Shane Warne's home ground of St Kilda. And though Chris again finished on the losing side, he struck 60 with the bat and removed the Australia captain first ball to claim another man-of-the-match award.
Two years later Chris and his England colleagues embarked on a tour of Kimberley (S Africa) in a bid to dethrone Australia as the world's best side. They returned home with a perfect record of five wins from five matches, and the title World Champions.
"After the Melbourne tour we asked ourselves how long would it be before we were strong enough to beat Australia," recalls Chris. "At the time if someone had told me we would be World Champs in two years I would have laughed at them, but we found an inner belief. Our training and the facilities were improving all the time. Ian Martin (ECB disabilities manager) arranged for us to train at Malvern College. The facilities there are fantastic and we would go there three or four times a year.
"We took a much younger squad to South Africa, when the average age was about 21. I had another good tour, getting three man-of-the-match awards."

Alongside his representative honours in disability cricket, Chris has also enjoyed success as a performer with the Cheshire Youth Cricket sides.
The opening batsman and strike bowler played for Cheshire from age 10 to 17, and has now come full circle as he joins the coaching staff for the county youth programme.
"I had eight years playing for Cheshire so I know exactly what the kids on the courses go through and how hard they have to work to achieve a county cap," said Chris.
"Colin Grindey was my coach for three years and I also played under Stewart Macleod and Mike Woollard, three guys I will be working alongside from now on. It will be strange to think of them as colleagues.
"Having a set timetable, a set structure with Cheshire is important to me and it allows me to concentrate on what I need to do. It's very organised and if I were self-employed things might not be as easy for me."

After landing his dream job with the Cheshire Cricket Board, Chris was keen to pay tribute to his parents and in particular to Keith Beggs, his mentor and friend.
Chris now acts as assistant coach to Keith for the Cheshire Disability Squad and is currently taking his ECB Club Coach Award.
"If it wasn't for Keith and my mum and dad I wouldn't be in the position I am in today. They have played a major part in looking after me and supporting me. Even just transporting me to matches, I think the family have been through about five cars in 10 years! Taking this role on was something I wanted to give back to my parents and Keith and to say thank you. I have had success playing for Cheshire and now I want to give something back and help the county achieve more success in the future."