May 3, 2016
I lost my leg aged 16 months due to a birth deformity. Before that, I couldn’t really walk, but still had a cricket bat in my hand. Once I was on two legs, I never looked back.
I was lucky that my family, friends and teachers encouraged me from an early age to participate in mainstream sport. I played county representative cricket as a child and also played county squash, school rugby, football with friends, golf, hockey – you name it, I did it.
I started playing cricket at Chester-le-Street, just up the road from the Riverside, at the age of nine. Over the years, I’ve scored some good hundreds – the first when I was 17. The thing that I’m most proud of is captaining my team to five trophies in one season.
I was first invited to join the England Physical Disability squad at a training weekend in 2012, having been put forward by Durham CCC. I was 32 and, up until that point, I hadn’t played any disability sports.
I was initially nervous that the environment might not be right for me and that it would be full of people who thought the world had dealt them a bad hand. But after that first weekend, I was over the moon – to share a pitch with ten others who have been through similar experiences to you creates a very strong bond. All of us have had challenges in our lives, have overcome these challenges and are participating in life fully.
My first series against Pakistan was hugely disappointing. We won 80 per cent of the game, but the 20 per cent we lost cost us the series. It was gut wrenching to not get over the line.
In September last year there was a major development in our game, with the International Red Cross hosting the first ever tournament for disabled cricketers in Bangladesh. Five teams played in that tournament, and more people watched us live on Bangladeshi TV than watched England win The Ashes earlier in the year.
To be named captain of my country was my dream as a child but the opportunity for a disabled cricketer to represent England was not there. So, to be appointed to lead the squad in an international competition, and to win that tournament, meant so much.
To land back in the UK to tweets from Number 10 and a full page advert in The Times congratulating us, followed up with a lap of honour at Old Trafford, and interviews on Test Match Special, Sky Sports News and in the cricketing press, gave me and the team an insight into what the future of the game could be.
I would say that cricket has helped me professionally and that my professional life has helped my cricket. In a lot of instances, captaincy is no different to management. It’s all about communication, clarity of thought and leading from the front.
I’m used to dealing with businesses under financial stress. Managing teams under stress on the cricket pitch is very similar. Being able to make a decision when others are distracted by things going on around them, communicating clearly, and explaining your thought processes – all of these skills make both tasks an awful lot easier.