Matt Dean is in a confident mood. The right handed batsman has been playing blind cricket for over a decade and has progressed through the ranks to become the captain of the England visually impaired one-day international team.
He has been a key member of the side since making his debut in 2004. Dean was captain of the 2008 tour of Australia, where England won 3-0, and scored an unbeaten 111 against the same opposition in a T20 in 2012.
Dean plays for London Metro and was attending a celebration of Disability Cricket event with the England physical disability and England visually impaired teams at Lord’s.
He said: "In 2003 my sight became worse and affected my daily life. My dad was keen for me to lead an active life. He took me along to play cricket at our local sports club and I haven't looked back since."
Until then Dean had never played cricket. "My dad gently encouraged me to go to these local trials. I did and it turned out that I was supposedly a very naturally talented cricketer."
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And that's when it all began for Dean: "There is no greater honour for me than leading the England cricket team.
"To be honest with you, when I came into the sport I literally expected to be playing at reserve levels. I didn't expect to break into the first team.
"But I did, and it went from there really. When I first started I didn't expect to be England captain but as the journeys gone on I've taken hold of the opportunities that have come my way and now each time I take to the field it's a real privilege."
Dean gushes as he speaks of improving his game by learning from cricket heroes: "One is David Gower. I liked his elegant style of cricket. He is someone one who has really appealed to me.
“Aside from that there's Alastair Cook. For me, he's been really important. I see him lead the current England team and I think he’s doing an excellent job of it. I’m an opening batsman and he’s an opening batsman and I just try to keep up with his scores.”
Dean reflected on his career: "It's a dream come true. Eleven years ago I was encouraged to play cricket by my dad and now here I am on the verge of leading England into the World Cup.
"It's the stuff dreams are made of. Disabled sports people, including visually impaired cricketers, are now widely supported. It's a great thing and reflective of the changing attitudes in our society.”
But Dean is not thinking too far ahead with regards to his cricketing future: “I’d love to still be involved in blind cricket. It’s something I haven’t put much thought to as I’m concentrating on the here and now.
"I’m certainly not going anywhere soon. The players in the team see me as an older brother and I have a big role to play there. After I finish my playing career I’d love to stay involved in the game.”
World Cup ambitions
The event at Lord's marked the visually impaired team’s departure for the blind World Cup in South Africa and included a screening of a behind-the-scenes video of the physical disability team’s tour to UAE earlier this year.
Dean is confident that his team will come good: “On Friday we fly out to South Africa for the World Cup. It’ll be constant 40 over games. We are a young team and we are ready to go. We play Sri Lanka in the first game and they are up there with us.
“India and Pakistan are probably the best two teams in blind cricket. We are looking to make an impact in the World Cup, hopefully reaching a semi final. Once we get into the knockouts anything is possible at that stage.
"I'm confident that England will put on a good show at the World Cup. If we can get past the round robin games and make it through to the knockout stages then who knows what can happen."
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