You know you've hit a six when you hear the ball strike concrete

Ian Burrell meets the blind cricketers on their way to the World Cup

It might sound at first as unlikely as a bicycle race for fish but a team of blind cricketers is being assembled to play for England in a World Cup.

Until this summer, some might argue, the English Test side has been playing as if with its eyes closed, tumbling down the rankings of world cricket after a succession of humbling defeats.

Yet just as England's form against Australia in the fight for the Ashes has sparked a revival in cricketing fever, the country's blind players are clamouring for the chance to be the first visually-impaired players to wear the white sweater with three lions.

It is a major step forward for a game which was invented 49 years ago by pupils at the Royal National College for the Blind in Shropshire.

The schoolboys filled a football with dried peas so that they could hear it rattle and bounce and adapted the rules of the Marylebone Cricket Club to form their own code.

Wally Kinder was one of those who took part in the first games of blind cricket and at 63 he is still playing. "I was only 15 when we invented it. It never occurred to us that it would advance so far," he said.

Teams are a mixture of totally and partially blind players and some concessions are made to those completely without sight to give the game more balance.

Totally blind players are allowed to catch the ball on the bounce and are therefore effective close-to-the-wicket fielders, responding to the sound of the ball coming off the bat and landing close to them.

When batting, totally blind players are accompanied by a partially-sighted "runner" who gives advice on gaps in the field. The bowler must ask his opponent if he is ready and the ball must bounce twice to enable the batsman to gauge its path.

Among the leading contenders for an England place is Nikil Nair, 21, a Cambridge University student who is totally blind but bats with an orthodox technique.

The highlight of his career so far was a recent pull-shot over square leg for six. "I was told that the fielder on the boundary got a hand to it but I heard the ball crash onto the concrete of the car park instead of onto the grass and that was wonderful," he said.

The World Cup in New Delhi in November next year will feature teams from all the major Test-playing cricket countries.

One problem to be ironed out is the difference in rules between the blind cricket played on the Indian sub-continent and the rules followed elsewhere.

The Indian game features a smaller, bouncier ball and is played on a concrete wicket. A meeting is to be held in Cape Town in September to find a compromise.

The England coach for the World Cup will be Andy Sellins, a cricketing development officer at the London Community Cricket Association, who is drawing up a programme for selecting the 16-strong touring party.

He will have a pool of nearly 300 blind cricketers, playing with a dozen clubs, to choose from. Initially, three regional squads are being established, based at the Lord's, Edgbaston, and Headingley test grounds.

But as it prepares to move onto the international stage there is one major problem jeopardising the future of English blind cricket; moves to integrate blind children into mainstream schooling have severely hindered attempts to recruit new young players who were easy to locate when they all studied at schools for the blind.

It is hoped that the formation of the England team will raise awareness, particularly among young visually impaired people of how the game provides sporting and social opportunities for a section of the community in which three out of four are unemployed.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
people
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Sport
football
News
i100
News
Perry says: 'Psychiatrists give help because they need help. You would not be working in mental health if you didn't have a curiosity about how the mind works.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?