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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions