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An Invisible Disability – The Challenges Of Visual Impairment In Cricket, A Personal Story

Christiaan Partridge is a Family Doctor, Photographer, football coach and cricket coach. Having picked up a camera at a relatively late stage in life, Christiaan has recently achieved a First Class Honours degree in Photography via the University of Chester.

 
Executive Contributor Christiaan Partridge

I have recently participated in some research funded by the ECB in the wake of the Yorkshire CCC scandal and just wanted to share some of my experiences of recreational cricket with you. I was invited to participate in this research because of my various roles as a player, parent, coach, umpire, scorer, and club official. It was a very eye-opening experience, and perhaps sharing some of what I have learnt over the years about cricket and, more importantly, about myself might help some understand my driven ambitions and some might find it insightful. Some of the issues this research has re-opened for me have changed my outlook on recreational cricket and where it should be.


Cricket players on the field

My medical history is key to the issues I have faced as a cricketer, from childhood to playing right here and now. Only this year have I been comfortable enough to admit that I have a disability that impairs my ability to play.

 

I was born with a divergent squint in my left eye, to lay people a “lazy eye” or medically a Strabismus. I had an operation at 4 years old to straighten the eye; one of the eye muscles is cut to achieve this, in the hope that the brain can still re-learn what that eye sees. Unfortunately, in my case, the operation came too late; it is done much earlier now, and the part of my brain that deciphers what I see through my left eye did not develop. Whilst my left eye appears normal, I can only see the first big letter on an eye chart with it. With my right eye, I can still read the smallest line. 

 

Later in childhood, while in middle school, I had hoped to join the RAF cadets. Part of the test for this was an eye test. Because of the strength of my right eye, this was not a problem. However, it was quickly discovered that I was Red/Green Colour Blind and, therefore, would not be accepted. This is a male-only condition; only complete colour blindness affects both men and women.

 

To now explain how this affects my eyesight is actually quite difficult. Perhaps the easiest is the lazy eye, called Amblyopia. Basically, my peripheral vision is normal, but the central vision in my left eye is not there and is not correctable by any means. The effect is that I have no depth of vision; I can’t see those 3D pictures. Basically, I see the world as a photograph, perhaps an advantage to my hobby. I cannot always judge how far a ball is away from me and have to judge length on where the bowler lets go. When batting, it means I often play very late, and I have to concentrate extremely hard, and I might still miss it completely. I also can’t judge my leg side, as I cannot see it, and though I’ve toyed with trying to bat left-handed, it simply doesn’t work.

 

Red/Green Colour Blindness is much harder to explain, as you don’t just see one colour or the other. Similar tones blend into each other, and a cricket ball can suddenly become invisible. It isn’t an issue up close, but combined with no depth of vision, it can make seeing a ball very difficult. Add in grounds like Eaton, with no sight screens, trees at one end and red bricks at the other; the ball is just not there. Interestingly, pink balls are not much better, but orange balls are considerably easier to see. Even more pertinent is that no law says a ball has to be red – so we continue to discriminate against men in our beloved game actively.

 

When I was a teenager, I joined a local cricket club’s winter training programme to play the following summer in their U16s. Of course, playing indoors with yellow or orange balls posed a few problems, and I remember doing very well. However, red balls caused many problems when we moved outside, and I didn’t progress. Nothing was mentioned of my eyesight problems, and in fact, I was asked to leave, being told, “You’ll never be a cricketer.” I then spent a few years being a number 11 batter and not bowling while playing friendly cricket. I was neither trusted nor given opportunities to bowl, despite the results being unimportant, until I returned from my first year at university. I could hit balls in throw downs from 5-10 yards away, but hopeless playing a ball bowled 22 yards.

 

This, to me, has become a case of proving the doubters wrong, and it has driven me on throughout my cricketing career and almost certainly drives my competitive nature. I am completely self-taught as a bowler and have researched how to bowl differently to maintain reasonable success as I’ve got older and slower. I know my action isn’t quite as it should be, but it works for me. Batting has always been an experiment; I have found the open, upright stance most beneficial for me. It has also driven my coaching ambitions in that no child should ever have the same experiences I had all those years ago. I want the older youth players to come into the adult teams, continue their development, and have those chances.

 

I finally disclosed my story just over a year ago, am now designated as visually impaired, and though accepted by most, there are those who doubt the validity of my story. I won’t give in, though equity in cricket in the United Kingdom is a continuing fallacy. I’m proud to have just received a call-up to represent the county at a senior level.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

 

Christiaan Partridge, General Medical Practitioner

Christiaan Partridge is a Family Doctor, Photographer, football coach and cricket coach. Having picked up a camera at a relatively late stage in life, Christiaan has recently achieved a First Class Honours degree in Photography via the University of Chester. For the past 7 years, he has been a youth football coach and also an ECB Core Cricket Coach. Christiaan also has vast experience in running amateur sports clubs, specializes manly in Landscape Photography, with a particular interest in Therapeutic Photography to treat minor mental illness.


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