I al­ways knew I wanted to play just like Lara...

The Cricket Paper - - FEATURE -

Age: 27 Teams: War­wick­shire Bears, Eng­land What’s your story?

I have con­gen­i­tal cataracts from birth, which in the sim­plest terms is hav­ing the eyes of some­one who is 70 or 80. There were a cou­ple of is­sues when I was grow­ing up and try­ing to learn about my own con­di­tion, I re­mem­ber sit­ing at the front of class at school, not be­ing able to read what the board said, some­one who is four or five rows be­hind me be­ing able to read it. I re­mem­ber think­ing 'how can you read that and I can't?'

When did you first get into cricket?

I first got into it at school – I re­mem­ber in year 4, we had ses­sions af­ter school and I wasn't re­ally that in­ter­ested un­til one of my mates told me to come along and keep him com­pany. It turned out I was pretty nifty at bowl­ing, so I joined the lo­cal club and went from there. My mate gave up a while ago, and be­came quite a good foot­baller in­stead!

How has play­ing cricket im­proved your life?

It's given me a sense of di­rec­tion, and is some­thing I am re­ally good at. In the blind cricket com­mu­nity, I've got to know more peo­ple with eye con­di­tions, even worse than mine, and grown closer to other peo­ple. It’s also good that I’m treated in the same man­ner as ev­ery­body else rather than be­ing sin­gled out in the main­stream. I’ve had is­sues where I’ve been treated un­fairly be­cause of my sight be­fore.

What type of crick­eter are you?

All-rounder, I’ve be­come one of the best all-rounders in the world. Two years ago I was named best bats­man at the tour­na­ment at the 40-over World Cup in South Africa, and in the do­mes­tic league, I broke the record for best bowl­ing fig­ures.

Who is your crick­et­ing idol?

Grow­ing up, it was def­i­nitely Brian Lara – you can’t get much bet­ter than him. He made ev­ery­thing look so ef­fort­less and easy, and I knew that was how I wanted to play. From my teenage years and into my twen­ties it would be Kevin Pi­etersen. He’s some­one who can re­ally take the game to the bowlers and change a game.

What was your best mo­ment?

Be­ing named ECB dis­abil­ity player of the year in 2015 is def­i­nitely up there for me – it was third time lucky! Six months be­fore that, I was named B3 Bats­man of the Tour­na­ment at the World Cup, tak­ing on the In­dian and Pak­istani bats­man and beat­ing them to that, and be­ing the top run scorer is some­thing I am re­ally proud of.

How proud are you to rep­re­sent your coun­try?

It's an un­be­liev­able feel­ing, be­ing able to rep­re­sent my coun­try. I come across as quite a fiery com­peti­tor, to the amuse­ment of the rest of the team. When I’m at work, I’m very calm and re­laxed, but I’m com­pletely dif­fer­ent on a cricket field. When I first started play­ing cricket, you want that aim as a kid of be­ing able to play for Eng­land and rep­re­sent your coun­try in all sorts of com­pe­ti­tions. When I was about 12 or 13, I said to one of the coaches, ‘I’m not go­ing to stop un­til I’m the best in the world’. The next goal for me now is to push the team on to World Cup glory at the end of this month.

PIC­TURE: ECB Getty Dave Thompson

Cap­tain: Luke Sugg

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