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