More ob­sta­cles than most for Jonathan to overcome

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Services - BY TOM FOSTER

“IT’S the only time I feel equal to ev­ery­one else. For a short time, when I’m on that pitch, no­body gives me spe­cial treat­ment. And that’s the way I want it to be.”

The words above are from 17-year-old Jonathan Ti­ley. Like many young men and women, he is ob­sessed with sport.

Cricket and foot­ball are his main loves, but it is the game of cricket that he is mak­ing strides in.

Jonny cur­rently plays for Mawdes­ley CC in the Palace Shield Cricket League. He was about to break into their se­nior men’s sides this sea­son be­fore the coro­n­avirus hit.

A promis­ing off-spin­ner, he had been in­vited to train with Lan­cashire CCC last win­ter. This of course has been halted in­def­i­nitely, un­til the green light is given to start play­ing again.

But what dif­fer­en­ti­ates Jonny’s story from the ma­jor­ity of other sports peo­ple are the chal­lenges he has overcome to reach this stage.

Born with cere­bral palsy, Jonny’s lower limbs and left side have se­vere move­ment and co­or­di­na­tion lim­i­ta­tions. The re­sult is a dom­i­nant right side, and means grip­ping the bat with his top left hand (he is a right-hand bats­man) is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.

Un­able to walk with­out crutches un­til he was 11, his ear­li­est sport­ing mem­o­ries are of bowl­ing to his dad and broth­ers from a wheel­chair in the gar­den, or bat­ting on his knees. Jonny de­scribed the frus­tra­tion of not par­tak­ing as he would like was ex­cru­ci­at­ing, and jeal­ousy would kick in­fre­quently. This would in­clude watch­ing his broth­ers and friends run around in the gar­den, or his hero Graeme Swann tak­ing wick­ets on the TV.

The sum­mer of 2013 marked a change for Jonny, as he un­der­went a se­ries of op­er­a­tions to be able to walk and move un­aided.

This list of pro­ce­dures is fright­en­ingly long. Jonny’s fe­murs were bro­ken and re­set, his kneecaps twisted and moved into the cor­rect po­si­tion, his Achilles were re­leased, and his ham­strings length­ened to the cor­rect size.

His legs are now held to­gether by plates and wires. Bo­tox has since been pumped into his arms four times, in an at­tempt to give him more elas­tic­ity and move­ment. It would still be more than a year be­fore he could walk unas­sisted, and the pain as his legs be­gan to set in place was in­de­scrib­able. The list con­tin­ues to this day, as he reg­u­larly has to at­tend hospi­tal for fur­ther check-ups and smaller pro­ce­dures.

The ini­tial process took more than six months, and a to­tal of 18 hours op­er­at­ing time. It was one of the first of its kind in the UK, and more than 10 re­search re­ports have been writ­ten on the process and his sub­se­quent re­cov­ery.

Af­ter a year of gru­elling re­hab, Jonny was in a dif­fer­ent place. Now able to walk more freely, (or with the help of his walker), he was start­ing to en­joy cricket more and found he could par­take more openly in the back gar­den games. How­ever, he would still be con­fined to his wheel­chair by the evening. These are is­sues Jonny still strug­gles with to­day. But with a tal­ent for the game, and en­thu­si­asm in spades to match, the back gar­den dreams be­came a won­der­ful re­al­ity.

His Dad, Pa­trick, in­tro­duced him to Mawdes­ley CC, the clos­est team to his Chorley home­town with a ded­i­cated coach­ing sec­tion for dis­abled crick­eters. To give some per­spec­tive, Jonny is classed as a level 3 dis­abil­ity, with 1 be­ing the least af­fected and 4 the most.

But his cricket skills im­pressed the coaches enough to put him in the club’s able-bod­ied U11s team, and amaz­ingly he is still yet to play a com­pet­i­tive game against other dis­abled play­ers. In a fan­tas­tic twist, he would later spend days at school in his wheel­chair or with his walker in a bid to be fresh and con­serve his en­ergy for cricket in the evening.

He bowls with no run-up, al­though he is work­ing on po­ten­tially bring­ing one in. His power is gen­er­ated from his up­per body and wrist, and for his quicker ball he has to be care­ful not to bend his el­bow too much.

Bat­ting is a dif­fer­ent prob­lem en­tirely, and Jonny ad­mits this is a work in progress. He strug­gles to bal­ance, and gen­er­at­ing power in his shots is hard, as he can’t move his legs into po­si­tion freely. When he trained with the Lan­cashire Dis­abled Team last win­ter, the coaches opened his stance and he de­vel­oped a trig­ger move­ment, to try and get more power back into the ball. For field­ing, he gen­er­ally stops the ball with his feet, which any crick­eter will tell you is a painful thing to do.

Through sheer per­se­ver­ance and will-power, bowl­ing has been the part of his game he has been able to adapt.

Fol­low­ing the cur­rent state of af­fairs, none of us will take play­ing sport for granted again.

For Jonny, it was never taken for granted in the first place.

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