Callum Flynn: From battling cancer to batting for England

The 16-year-old cricketer fought off bone cancer and loves his role with disability team. He's also Britain's 'kindest kid'. He talks to Jack Gaughan

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The Independent Online

The inner strength that those with a disability draw upon has long inspired the sporting public. The likes of the late charity fund-raiser Jane Tomlinson engage audiences, help ing to tackle preconceptions, all the while raising money to help others in a similar position.

The 16-year-old cricketer Callum Flynn, who opened the batting for the England Physical Disability team as they undertook a maiden tour of Dubai to face Pakistan earlier this month, is the latest of these athletes.

Formerly a budding all-rounder, Flynn might have been forgiven for shelving dreams of playing international cricket after being told on his 14th birthday he had to fight against bone cancer. But after undergoing a life-saving operation and two years of intensive physiotherapy, he now plays with a titanium knee.

Flynn's mature attitude towards the game was reflected in his response to losing 2-0 in the Twenty20s and 2-1 in the one-day international series. "I wanted to score more – I didn't perform as well as I could have. I got four starts out of five but didn't manage to push on," he told The Independent. "I don't want to blame it on anything. I just got myself out by playing too many silly shots. It was probably inexperience. The knowledge will come over time, hopefully.

"After being told about the cancer, I had five months of chemotherapy and an operation. Since then I've been recovering and trying to get stronger. The best way to approach it is not to think about it and do what you want to do and live your life again."

Flynn, who ended a successful debut season for Lancashire with England call-ups, does a whole lot more with that life than play cricket. He raised more than £50,000 for the Bone Cancer Research Trust last year, and was voted "Britain's kindest kid" last year for his efforts outside of the game, something he puts down to anyone other than himself. "My family and friends have been really supportive. They've been there throughout," he said.

Before being announced as the winner, Flynn made his way down to London to meet the Prime Minister, David Cameron, whom he described as "really polite and interested in me", later quipping "guess he has to be, though." The cheek to his personality is refreshing, but Flynn's cricketing brain is obvious. "I'm the youngest player at Lancashire. The older players help me along and are constantly talking me through games as guidance," he said. "They have the experience and I have youth so I think we complement each other nicely. It is good being young – I have it all ahead of me."

What the opener may see in the coming years is disability cricket continuing to thrive, and he is keen to see more competitive games.

"We're hoping to play Pakistan again. The West Indies have a team and Australia have lots of different disability teams. There could be World Cups in the future," Flynn said. "I'd love to play in one – all it needs is four or five teams." Now Flynn is flourishing at Myerscough College, near Preston, where he is enrolled on a cricket studies course.

Richard Dearden, the cricket development manager at the college, believes that Callum is the whole package – so much so that he will be playing for the first team come the summer. "He is an example to us all. He just gets on with things and you will never hear a complaint from him. He trains with the fully able lads and that is a challenge he has willingly accepted," Dearden said.

In turn, Flynn is hugely grateful for the help the college provides: "It has been great. They helped me with my fitness and preparing for the tour. They are a great bunch of lads."

Looking back on what was a disappointing tour in the middle, Flynn described three weeks that have opened his eyes to international sport, and being away from home. "The tour was massive, I just want to do it again. It was a great laugh with the lads, a wonderful experience," he said.

Even though the team were frustrated by their showing during the five games, it was certainly not for lack of effort and determination shown by their courageous opener, who will have an impressive career indeed if his cricket measures up to his courage and conviction.