Posted: Fri, 23 Nov 2018 15:35
This year Activity Alliance has been sharing experiences of disabled people involved in sport and exercise at all levels.
Hello, I'm Hassan, a proud South West Londoner. I'm 32 years-old and I'm registered blind. I'm a former England VI cricketer, currently playing cricket for Metro Blind Sport's two cricket teams, Metro and the Metro Devils – which I captain.
My love for cricket started to grow from an early age. I grew up in Pakistan in a village of 200-300 people, where the game of cricket was adored by all. I used to play in living rooms, dusty streets, grounds and slums across the country. It was a game for the rich and the poor but sadly, not if you were blind.
I lost my sight at the age of three but I would carry a bat around following my dad. He allowed his friends to bowl to me and they would call me little Imran Khan. The cards I was dealt with in my early life meant, education, cricket or any sort of an active lifestyle was utterly inaccessible. Alas, the love of my life and I quickly parted, perhaps even at that age, I realised cricket was not written in my script.
However, at the age of 17 I got hold of that long forgotten script, read it, ripped up a few of the pages and started a new chapter of my own.
My PE teacher introduced me to the game I once loved, but now accessible for me, I quickly learned I still maintained some of my skills and I fell head over heels in love with cricket again. I found myself training with Metro Blind Sport, a London-based charity which aims to open doors to sport for all visually impaired people, no matter their age or ability. Their standard of blind cricket was just breath-taking. I didn't think I'd ever pull on a Metro shirt in a competitive match but I did.
I didn't just discover cricket at Metro Blind Sport, I discovered independence, freedom and a new lease of life. Cricket became the vehicle to greater things in life, such as university, volunteering, employment, living on my own and the greatest achievement of all, representing my country.
The highlight of my cricketing career has to be winning The Ashes on Australia day! This was the sweetest day of my life.
The active lifestyle I now lead allows me to be fit mentally and physically - sometimes I find it beneficial to stay away from my thoughts, and playing and training allows me to achieve this. It also allows me to enjoy camaraderie and build relationships. I really enjoy competition and so playing cricket internationally or nationally allows me to compete for trophies and personal awards which I relish.
Being active also keeps me balanced and motivated which really helps in my daily life. Some of the skills I practise on the field I'm then able to take into work, one good example of this is leadership.
Cricket takes me through a variety of emotions. When I'm preparing for a match, initially I feel quite proud. During the game I do put a lot of pressure on myself and I feel quite tense and lost in the moment. After a game my physical and mental wellbeing purely depends on the final result of the game. If it's a loss I do feel terrible, I ache and I go into reflect mode. Naturally, winning makes me feel great – I love celebrating a victory with my teammates.
The support of my teammates has been really important to me. I rely heavily on them for support on and off the field, particularly advice and support from the senior players, such as Andy Dalby-Welsh, Deputy CEO at Activity Alliance. He has played a major role in my development and aided me in settling into the England VI team in the 2006 World Cup.
Thanks to that support network and friendship I now have the confidence to offer support to other players. For me, cricket is a family sport, so family, friends and teammates are crucial, particularly on away tours when you are stuck in hotels for weeks and you need that support element.
My advice to other disabled people who are thinking about being more active but not sure how is – reach out to charities who will do everything in their power to support you, or sign post you to organisations that can assist with our goals. If you should choose to try something active today, you are more than likely to make new friends, improve the quality of your life and discover the inner you, which is empowering to say the least. Worst case scenario, you may decide it isn't for you, but at least you know within yourself you tried something new, something out of the ordinary.
Unlike me, you may not appreciate competitive sports and that's absolutely fine. There are development leagues in cricket and Metro Blind Sport actually deliver different visually impaired friendly sporting activities in London.