The Ashes: how a Bristol optometrist played a small role in sporting history
Amar Shah sat with fingers crossed poolside in Majorca as England cricketer Jack Leach gained a cult following wearing Ørgreen frames
It was an unlikely pairing.
At one end of the cricket pitch was a tattooed all-rounder who launched 20 balls across the boundary in England’s nail-biting Ashes comeback against Australia.
At the other end, casually cleaning his spectacles between deliveries, was ‘super-nightwatchman’ Jack Leach.
He scored one run off 17 deliveries, helping to keep the hopes of the England team alive and earning a cult following as cricket’s everyman.
As one social media observer put it, Mr Leach’s understated heroics were a testament to the fact that not all superheroes wear capes. Sometimes they wear spectacles.
Both Mr Leach’s spectacles and lens cloth had their own Twitter accounts by the time the final ball was bowled and the blood pressure of cricket fans gradually receded to normal levels.
While the game was being played, Mr Leach’s optometrist was pretending not to follow the cricket while on holiday with his partner and children in Majorca.
“I checked at lunchtime and it was getting a bit tense,” Bristol optometrist Amar Shah told OT.
“I was sat on a box in the shade watching the scores change with my fingers crossed. I didn’t really know that he was stopping and cleaning his glasses or the full impact of what had happened until the following day. I checked on Twitter and saw that everyone was going bonkers about it,” he shared.
Mr Shah, who is the official optometrist for Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, helped to screen the Somerset County Cricket Club around four years ago.
“As part of the screening procedure we discovered that Jack had a slight prescription. On the back of that he came to my practice in Bristol for a more complete examination and we fitted him with some glasses for that season. We have been seeing him since,” Mr Shah said.
The cricketer was also fitted with contact lenses following his selection to the national team, which he “mixes and matches” with his spectacles, Mr Shah added.
Jack standing out there will hopefully show kids that they can play cricket if they wear glasses
Mr Leach was wearing Ørgreen frames during his moment in the spotlight at the Ashes.
“We wanted something really lightweight that fitted inside his helmet and that wasn’t going to move. That’s why we chose those. They gave him a wide field of view. We checked him in his batting stance so that he wasn’t seeing the edge of the frames when he was batting,” Mr Shah explained.
Although many spectators speculated that Mr Leach was repeatedly wiping his lenses because they were misting up, Mr Shah said the lenses he selected were anti-misting.
“The fact that he was cleaning his lenses was slight gamesmanship really. Ben Stokes, at the other end, was knackered so he was trying to buy some time,” Mr Shah observed.
Mr Shah is an avid cricket fan and plays regularly for a team called the Misfits who he describes as “a nomadic group of mates who play social cricket.”
“I still play although my bones hurt more now. Because I play it makes a big difference understanding what the requirements are and what cricketers will face,” he shared.
Mr Shah is happy about the prominent role that eyewear played in the match.
“I think it highlights the importance of seeing clearly so it has been good from that point of view,” he highlighted.
“Jack standing out there will hopefully show kids that they can play cricket if they wear glasses,” Mr Shah said.
Great Britain representative for Ørgreen Optics, Bernard King, highlighted: “As a company whose roots are in action sports, Ørgreen are naturally delighted to have played a small part in this piece of English cricketing history.”
“The ‘Javier 678’ from our titanium collection worn by Mr Leach is ideal for purpose, with its combination of lightness, strength and perfect field of view, giving the wearer ultimate comfort to concentrate on the task in hand,” he said.
Image credit: Getty Images/Brian A Jackson, Amar Shah, Ørgreen Optics