ENGLAND Visually Impaired cricket team head coach Ross Hunter insists he is delighted to have James Millard in his ranks – even if the Chichester College ace has had to be patient for his chance.
Hunter led England at the Blind World Cup at the end of 2014, the Three Lions going all the way to the semi-final before losing to eventual runners-up Pakistan.
And while Millard was part of that squad in South Africa, he didn’t feature as much as he would have liked – he played just once all tournament.
The next test for England will be three one-day and three T20s against newly crowned world champions India on home soil – the first clash taking place on Sunday (May 24). And Hunter acknowledges that Millard’s all-round talents will soon see the door to international cricket burst wide open.
“Jimmy got his first cap in an England shirt at the World Cup – he’s a real utility player,” Hunter said. “It’s a challenge because we ask him to practice batting, fielding, bowling and wicket-keeping.
“Dan Field, our keeper, got injured in our first game and James got an opportunity to come in and play and that was against Pakistan, he did incredibly well. That was his first cap so it was so great to see him have an opportunity on the pitch but also do it so well.
“And it was in a challenging position because Jimmy as a character is quite quiet and keeps himself to himself but out there he had to be the general and make a real step up.
“I think that had whetted his appetite to want more, unfortunately when Dan came back Jimmy then lost out on the squad.
“But he’s pushing in so many places as a batter and a bowler, he’s an ultimate trainer and an ultimate professional so if he carries on that way he’ll just keep getting better and better.”
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.
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