Injury stopped me bowling so I took up batting
Age: 22 Teams: Surrey, England
What’s your story? I was diagnosed with autism as a child and my first experience of cricket came when I was about eight at an after-school club down the road from where I lived in Westcott, Surrey. Because I went to a special needs school, cricket wasn’t really played much, so the only way I could access it was through a mainstream environment. A couple of years later, I went along to the club I’m still a member of – Westcott CC – so I’ve been playing mainstream cricket since I was ten and then at about 13 I first discovered disability cricket. How did you get involved with Surrey and England? I got involved with Surrey through a charity called The Change Foundation, who had a programme called Hit the Top. It was an annual tournament in the school holidays and the charity had connections with the county boards, so Surrey offered me a place in their hardball disability team. Through that I found out about the pathway into the England Learning Disabilities team and my coach put me forward when I was 15. I was lucky to be with the right people at the right time and I’ve loved my international career so far. What type of player are you? I’m an opening batsman these days but I used to be one of the main bowlers for England. However, a few years ago I picked up a knee injury and all I could do was bat. I spent more time practising batting and it paid off. I was coming in at nine, ten or 11 when I first started for England but then my batting really clicked and the 2015 tour of Australia was my first as an opener. Suddenly you’re out there from ball one with the responsibility to get your team off to a good start but it’s a pressure I enjoy. What does 2017 hold? We’re building towards a Tri-Nations series against Australia and South Africa in July. It’s the first time England have hosted the tournament for the best part of ten years and it’s always challenging. My first was in South Africa in 2011 when we won. Australia had won all three before that, so it was nice to come into a team that wasn’t winning and help change that around. Since then we won another series in Australia in 2015, so we’re hoping to make it three in a row. What are England’s chances in the Tri-Nations? I’d like to think we’ll be favourites heading into the tournament but with that comes a lot of pressure. Because it’s in England, you’ve then got that extra pressure to perform in front of your friends and family but it’s a special feeling to represent your country at home and hopefully we can thrive. This could be my one and only chance to represent my country at home, so of course I’d like to be remembered as the one who got that fantastic ton in the final or something like that.
Giving back: Jonny Gale taking part in a game with students during an ECB Chance to Shine event