Bittersweet homecoming for blind T20 team

“It’s about winning matches and making our country proud. I think we did that”

21 Feb 2017 by Selina Powell

Cricket team playerThe England team has returned from the T20 Blind World Cup in India after bowing out in the semi-finals.

The national side posted wins against New Zealand, Australia, Nepal and the West Indies before suffering a 147 run defeat at the hands of Pakistan.

England captain Luke Sugg, 27, told OT that the team had a good tournament overall.

“There were lots of individual positives, especially from our all-rounders. However, there are several learning curves to take forward,” he emphasised.

Pakistan went on to succumb to home side and reigning champions India in the final.

Mr Sugg, who scored a century in the side’s win against Nepal, said preparations for the tournament could not have gone better.

A physiotherapist, nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach provided support to the team.

“We had added input from a data analyst, which gave us a wider picture of what happened in our games,” Mr Sugg added.

The heat and humidity in India meant that playing conditions were different to what the team was used to in England.

“Also, in visually impaired cricket, the glare from the sun and brightness can play a big part in matches,” Mr Sugg highlighted.

A key player

Mr Sugg, who was born with congenital cataracts, has no sight in his left eye and around 10-15% vision in his right eye.

The England all rounder began playing cricket at the age of nine.

“The thing I enjoy most is that the challenges are never the same at each match. They are always different from opponent to opponent,” he emphasised.

Mr Sugg explained that a person with full vision would take certain things for granted while playing sport, including reactions.

He continued: “You need quick reactions in visually impaired sport to be able to react the moment your sight allows you to.

“There is also a lot more pressure on players with slightly better sight than others and responsibility to call runs and guide other players.”

Exploring different cities and meeting people from around the world were among highlights from the tournament, Mr Sugg highlighted.

“Your team mates feel like they are your best friends and family,” he added.

However, Mr Sugg emphasised that at the end of the day the trip was all about the competition.

“We weren’t there to enjoy ourselves and enjoy the sun. It was about winning matches and making our country proud. I think we did that,” he concluded.

What is blind cricket?

The main difference with sighted cricket is the ball. A size three football is used to help the partially sighted players to see it and ball bearings inside the ball allow totally blind players to hear it.

While both partially sighted and blind players can take part in the sport, each team must have at least four players who are registered blind.

A larger wicket is used to make it easier for partially sighted players to see and for batsmen and bowlers to touch for the purpose of orientation.

The bowler must ask the batsman if they are ready before beginning a run up and shout "play" as he or she releases the ball.

A totally blind fielder can make a catch after the ball has bounced once, while a blind batsman is given one chance before being given out leg before wicket and cannot be stumped.

Blind cricket has been played in England and Wales since the 1940s. It was introduced as a form of recreation for those returning home injured from WWII.

A national blind cricket league was established in 1996. The league comprises eight teams: Lancashire, London Metro, Northants, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, Sussex, Warwickshire and Yorkshire.

Source: Blind Cricket England & Wales

Image credit: Getty 

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