Cricket is tak­ing me to places I’d never have gone

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE & DISABILITY CRICKET -

Age: 26 Role: All-rounder Clubs: Eng­land Blind, War­wick­shire

What’s your story?

In 2006, I lost my eye­sight when I was 16 over the course of three days quite dra­mat­i­cally. I had suf­fered from reti­nal de­tach­ments be­tween the age of eight and 12, but it had been sta­ble up un­til then. Sport was ob­vi­ously not pri­or­ity No.1. There was a lot I had to re-learn.

How long did it take to come to terms with your loss of vi­sion?

Even now, the truth is you are not fully able to cope. I’ve done amaz­ing things like play cricket around the world, climb Kilimanjaro, but if I’m in Lon­don or on my own in a new place, I have no idea where the hell to go, for ex­am­ple. It prob­a­bly took six months be­fore the shock sub­sided and I could get on with my life.

When did cricket en­ter your life?

I’d al­ways played the game and while I was go­ing through my re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, my VI sup­port worker said she knew some­one who played blind cricket – Dave Gavrilovic, who was Northamp­ton­shire cap­tain at the time. Af­ter play­ing a cou­ple of games I got in­vited to Eng­land Blind train­ing. I wasn’t se­lected for the World Cup later that year, but in 2007, I was se­lected for the home se­ries against In­dia and I’ve been in the team ever since.

Did it click straight away?

Be­cause I had a pas­sion for cricket be­fore­hand, I was al­ready nat­u­rally good at it – even with sim­ple things like how to hold a bat. To any­one who has no ex­pe­ri­ence of the game, would it be nat­u­ral to stand side­ways look­ing over your shoul­der? Also, know­ing the field­ing po­si­tions al­ready, I was good at cut­ting off an­gles and an­tic­i­pat­ing where the ball was com­ing from.

What’s it like to be an Eng­land in­ter­na­tional?

I re­alised early on that if I hadn’t lost my sight, I never would have been able to rep­re­sent Eng­land. The ECB treats us as well as any play­ers – we get full kit, our own cap num­bers and tour the world. I’ve been to places I’d never have dreamed of go­ing. The World Cup in South Africa in 2014 is prob­a­bly the high­light, an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence where I made many friends and we’ve got the T20 World Cup in In­dia in Jan­uary.

Why climb Kilimanjaro?

I wanted to prove to my­self I could do it, and if I hadn’t have lost my sight it prob­a­bly wouldn’t have crossed my mind. I went while at the Univer­sity of York – it was tough but I was lucky I didn’t get al­ti­tude sick­ness. I was the first of my group up there and even­tu­ally it was just me and my guide. I stayed up there for two hours, and what I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber is the to­tal si­lence. You can usu­ally hear a ra­di­a­tor, the howl of the wind, but it was al­most eerie.

On tar­get: Ma­homed Kha­tri bowl­ing for Eng­land dur­ing a tour­na­ment against Blind Aus­tralia

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