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
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Teacher

£100 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are currently recruitin...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?