ENGLAND visually-impaired cricket team head coach Ross Hunter believes Gosport’s Matt Page will pick up where he left off when India come to town.
Hunter led England at the Blind World Cup at the back end of last year, with the Three Lions reaching the semi-finals before losing to eventual runners-up Pakistan.
A big part of England’s progression in that tournament was down to the bat of Page – the 24-year-old hitting his first competitive 50 against Pakistan in the group stage, before following up with centuries against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The next test for Page will be world champions India, who arrive in England for three one-day and three T20 matches, with the first clash taking place on May 24.
But despite coming up against such illustrious opposition, Hunter is delighted to be able to call on Page’s bat once again.
‘Matt had an amazing World Cup and I was so, so pleased for him,’ he said.
‘He really pushed himself forward as a top, world-class batter.
‘He scored hundreds against quality opposition and scored runs really quickly.
‘Matt also fielded like an absolute demon and was just so quick off the ground, he just really put in some really impressive performances at some tough times.
‘He hits a slow bowler so hard, he just hits it incredibly hard.
‘We went into the World Cup knowing that Matt was a quality cricketer but he was just world class so we’re hoping the same will happen for him against India.
‘He’s set the bar high and rightfully so because he works hard and he probably has a slightly different technique to some of the batters, but you can see some of the lads thinking: “Perhaps that’s a good way of doing it, maybe we’ll try that”.
‘He’s scored some really important runs and in his own goals, he’s now got the confidence to know that he should take the responsibility on.’
India will arrive in England with a strong pedigree in all formats of the game and backed by a large pool of talent from across the country.
The number of visually-impaired players in England in comparison is drastically less, but Hunter believes the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with the world champions, including during one T20 game under the lights at the Oval, will only benefit the growth of the sport.
‘We go in with humility because we know we have a lot to learn from them because they are a great cricketing nation,’ he added.
‘With India and Pakistan the numbers are hugely in their favour because they have got 2,000 people playing the game.
‘We have got about 25 playing the game domestically so the odds are stacked against us.
‘But being an underdog is not a bad place to be. We want more people playing this game and get experience about what it is like so to have a home series gives people those opportunities.’
n Support the England Visually Impaired team by attending a match, every match is free entry. Alternatively follow the team at www.ecb.co.uk and on ECB Twitter and Facebook sites. The ECB is an inclusive organisation providing support and a pathway for disability cricket from grassroots to elite.