18 November 2002
England World Cup dream comes true for visually impaired university student
As England's Ashes hopes are once again on the brink of collapse maybe one Sussex resident can bring a cricket trophy home. Like many teenagers, Andy Dalby-Welsh was a keen sportsman and had dreams of representing England one day. At the age of 20 the dream was shattered when he began to lose his sight. However, three years later, Andy is to step out on the field as part of the England squad for the 2002 Blind Cricket World Cup.
Andy, a final year Social Policy student at the University of Sussex, has a genetic condition called Leber's Optic Neuropathy. He has no central vision at all and can only see around the periphery. "Even so I could walk past members of my own family in the street and simply not recognise them."
Andy was initially reluctant to participate in blind sports because he didn't want to be reminded of all the things he used to be able to do. "However, a few years down the line I was told about a blind team starting up as part of the main Sussex County Cricket Club and by this time I'd become more positive about my situation."
When the World Cup squad was picked he narrowly missed out on a place, "but then someone had to drop out so at the last minute I was called up." Andy, one of three Sussex players to be picked for the World Cup, regularly practises with the rest of the England squad at a variety of famous cricket grounds including Headingly and Trent Bridge.
The squad, who are backed by sponsorship and Lottery money, fly out on 25 November to Chennai in India to compete against the host nation as well as Australia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Cricket for the blind is played slightly differently to the usual game, with the emphasis on hearing rather than sight. The ball is white and plastic with ball bearings inside so the batsman can hear it. The bowler warns the batsman when he is about to begin his run-up and bowl. Each team must have a minimum of four blind and seven visually impaired players.
The sport was first played in Australia in the 1920s but did not catch on in India until the 1960s. But the visually impaired are among the millions of cricket-crazy people in the subcontinent and India hosted the first World Cup in 1998.
Between lectures and seminars Andy is practising his bowling and going to the gym in the weeks before he flies to the World Cup. "It's been such a positive experience," he says. "I just can't believe I'm about to go to the World Cup and represent my country."
Notes for editors
Information on the English World Cup squad can be found at: http://www.britishblindsport.org.uk/cricket.htm
Press Office contacts:
Benedict Brook or Alison Field,
University of Sussex,
Tel. 01273 678888,
Fax 01273 877456,
B.J.Brook@sussex.ac.uk or A.Field@sussex.ac.uk
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