How blind cricket made an England star of Hassan Khan

THE BLIND BATSMAN: AN INTERVIEW WITH HASSAN KHAN One morning, Hassan Khan woke up blind. Neither he nor his own family knew it, and wouldn’t for several years yet, but he changed into laid low with a genetic ailment. His…


One morning, Hassan Khan woke up blind. Neither he nor his own family knew it, and wouldn’t for several years yet, but he changed into laid low with a genetic ailment. His optic nerves were broken, and he had lost his sight in a single day. He changed into three. Hassan and his own family lived in a small village in Pakistan, outside Multan. Nobody there truely knew what to do with a touch blind boy. “I didn’t do something,” Hassan says. “I couldn’t do whatever.” He didn’t move to school, didn’t study in any respect. “My each day routine become to awaken and stroll across the stores by myself, go to people’s homes. And that was it,” he says.

Hassan learned to listen. He could often eavesdrop, and he heard things he needs to now not have. “People used to say to my dad and mom: ‘what’s he going to do whilst he grows up?’ And I used to wonder. I heard people say: ‘God forbid, if something happened to his dad and mom, he is probably out on the road begging.’ But there has been nothing I could do due to the fact I didn’t understand what had happened.” no one did.

Hassan is 29 now and a key member of Britain’s visually impaired cricket group. They play with a small plastic ball full of ball bearings. Hassan is a superb fielder at quick square leg, an activity that requires agility, bravery, and fantastic listening to. In blind cricket, the bowler has to dance the ball two times, in either 1/2 of the pitch. So it travels low, and batsmen play the sweep shot tough and often. Hassan loves to stand close in so he can get beneath the batsman’s skin. While he’s not speaking, he’s listening for the ball, ready. As soon as he hears the shot, he dives to try to intercept it. “You have to have balls to do it,” he says. “The ball is hit so toughly I’m always getting smashed at brief square leg.”


He and the rest of the squad have simply flown to Adelaide, in which they may play eight matches towards Australia. He has had to take annual leave from his task with the Thomas Pocklington agree with charity, so he has time to tour and play.

Cricket changed into always there, within the history. Both Hassan’s mother and father are loopy for the sport. Before he went blind, Hassan used to hold a touch bat with him. After, he might invite pals around to play video games in his own family’s back backyard. “I’d never play; it becomes so I may want to watch them and pay attention to them.” He might tuck a rolled-up newspaper right into a hole in the wall, then fake it changed into a microphone and commentate on their video games. “I made a chum from a poor background. He got here, and that they started gambling. He said that he desired to head and get his personal bat. He went – and that I knew he changed into no longer going to come back.” Later that day, Hassan heard that the boy had died. “He had decided that we were too wealthy for him and that he wanted to play cricket along with his pals near the lake. He was chasing a ball, and he fell in and drowned. After that, I hated the game.”
The whole thing changed whilst Hassan becomes nine. His younger sister went blind, too, on the very equal age as he had performed. Hassan’s parents had the medical reports sent to the great Ormond road medical institution. Then they traveled over to talk to the professionals there. The circle of relatives moved to London in 1995. His father took a process using a minicab. “It becomes a battle,” Hassan says. Hassan had never studied. Did not speak any English. Had by no means met a white individual. “And now I used to be in a land of strangers.” He has become even more reclusive. His parents nevertheless had no idea what to do with him.

Eventually, he was sent to Linden hotel school for the visually impaired in Wimbledon. “Someday, and that I don’t forget this vividly, a teacher wrote my call in braille and stated to me: ‘this is your name.’ I picked it up, and I took it home, and that I stated to my mother and father: ‘I’m now not going back. Although the Queen needs me out, I’m now not going back. I am staying here to observe.’ That’s sincerely whilst my existence started out.”

Quickly after, Hassan turned into twiddling approximately with the radio on his Walkman and tuned in to test fit unique. He has become hooked on it. “Instead of gambling with the youngsters at lunchtime, I’d sit down there listening to this peculiar recreation that I used to recognize.” TMS helped him learn English. “But I in no way attempted to pick up a bat due to the fact I knew I couldn’t do it. I’m blind, and cricket’s now not for blind people.” It becomes an Australian teacher who taught him otherwise. “He commenced gambling cricket with us during lunch breaks and after school, and I just thought: ‘that is excellent.’ It changed into simply with pals, nothing competitive.” the men were informed approximately a nearby club, Metro, who performed blind cricket. 4 of them went along for a consultation. Hassan, too used to being patronized, anticipated extra of the identical. “I notion: ‘I’ll flip up, and it’ll be like school. A group of blind boys hitting a ball around and hip hip hooray.’”

What Hassan determined, alternatively, was a new world. “I used to be 17. These men at the membership were 40, 50, 60. I was the youngest using 10 years, and I used to be overawed, hearing their conversations. They had other halves, jobs, and lives, and I thought: ‘that is great.’” till then, Hassan had by no means left home on his own. “One of the cricketers got here to choose me up that first week, and I stated: ‘something takes place, subsequent week I’m going to do this by myself. Something occurs.’ And that’s definitely how I commenced journeying on my own.” His family was now not cozy with it. “I think I recognize why. They were overprotective. It becomes a scary concept for them. I hadn’t ever even gone out by myself.” He took catches in his first sport. This, the notion, “is crazy.” A year later, he was invited to train with England.

Hassan says he owes the entirety he has now – his England career, his training at Birmingham metropolis university, his process with the consider – to Metro. “It is way to cricket that I’m in this function. It turned into the simplest because I saw people who had been able to live independently, who were capable of keeping down appropriate jobs, that I felt able to do it myself. I was emulating them.” England hasn’t been clean. He stops after his first schooling period, couldn’t stand being far away from home. He got here back in 2006, but whilst his pal and mentor, Heindrich Swanepoel, took over the national captaincy. Hassan made his England debuts that 12 months, in a fit in opposition to Sri Lanka in Colombo. In 2006, he performed within the international Cup in Pakistan. England’s second suit changed into towards the hosts, in Islamabad. “I fielded truly properly in that game and that I don’t forget one of the Pakistanis stated in Urdu: ‘Don’t worry, preserve hitting him tough as you want, they’ve got desirable hospitals out in England.’ That’s when I realized I used to be getting into my personal.”

Back then, the England and Wales Cricket Board changed into no longer involved in blind cricket. The players had to scratch collectively the money to play. “I spent the closing 4 or 5 weeks going around my college accumulating sponsorship, buying my personal prizes to offer out in raffles. Different lads who have been in London were standing outside tube stations with guide dogs, shaking buckets. That was the truth of it. If we didn’t improve enough, there could be a hazard we wouldn’t tour.”

That they had the poor kit and too little of it. The choice becomes ad hoc, practice infrequent, training nonexistent. Hassan dropped out, intending to deal with reading for his degree. Whilst he came back to play for England once more, things were specific. The ECB had taken on some of the responsibility for setting up the setup. There are 22 groups within the home competition and more than four hundred players. Then there are the six regional development centers. A pyramid is in the region, with the England team on the top.

Now England has a nutritionist, a psychologist, an energy and conditioning instruct. For the primary time in his life, Hassan is doing one-on-one work with a qualified cricket educate. Last 12 months, they performed India at the Oval. “It’s simply outstanding that they may be making an investment cash in the other players and me.” It’s really worth remembering, the following time you read, hear or make a grievance about having to pay to look at the sport on Sky, that that is where some of the money is going. “We’ve progressed so much because the ECB has come in due to the fact we’ve got had more coaches, more backroom body of workers, better venues to educate in. I’m a big cricket fan, and that I would like to see more cricket on terrestrial tv; however, surely, if that is what comes out of it, then I’d rather cricket stay on Sky.” It is not best for the visually impaired team. The bodily disability crew has just been to Bangladesh and the gaining knowledge of incapacity crew to Australia. The deaf crew is approximate to go to Dubai.

Hassan hopes that the blind cricketers will be paid to play at some point “no longer now. I’m not announcing I have to be paid to visit Australia, but in forty years, I want to sit back and know that someone else is.” This isn’t so very a long way-fetched. Pakistan’s visually impaired team is already an expert. “That’s my dream,” he says. He wants other visually impaired kids to have even bettered possibilities than he did. “I don’t think I will thank the game enough for what it has done for me.”

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