Hereford student Elyse Bezuidenhout is picked to play blind cricket for England's women team

Hereford Times: 1407_13004 RNC, Gloucestershire & England blind cricketer Elyse Bezuidenhout.Elyse with Mark Fisher (3976375) 1407_13004 RNC, Gloucestershire & England blind cricketer Elyse Bezuidenhout.Elyse with Mark Fisher (3976375)

CRICKETING recognition for England was far from the thoughts of Zimbabwean Elyse Bezuidenhout as she lay on the sofa after losing her eyesight.

She had represented the county at hockey in her homeland and only ever played two cricket matches as a sighted person.

Two years after losing her sight, the Hereford student is now dreaming of touring with Nepal this summer after being picked for the England women’s blind cricket squad.

The 26-year-old former chef is also on course to be England’s first visually impaired level two women’s cricket coach.

“Two years ago, I had problems with my eyesight and things didn’t go as well as I had hoped,” said Elyse, a sport and recreation student at Hereford’s Royal National College.

“I have type one diabetes and I didn’t look after myself too well after I left home,” she recalled.

“I didn’t eat well and I was partying too much. Losing my eyesight pretty much happened overnight.

“I was at work one night and my eye started haemorrhaging. It was terrifying because I had no idea what it was.

“I couldn’t be registered as visually impaired until I’d had my laser operation, and until I was registered I couldn’t get any help from any blind charities. It was such a frustrating time – I was at home for 11 months doing nothing.”

Elyse had previously worked as a chef in Marlow and Clifton and, after discussing options for the future with her mobility officer, her love for sport and cricket shone through.

“When I was at boarding school in Zimbabwe, we used to go and play cricket in the nets but I only played around two matches with my brother’s team,” she recalled.

“I played county hockey as a centre forward for Mashonaland but I have always followed cricket and admired people like Andy Flower and Henry Olonga.

“After the Zimbabwe national team fell, we followed South Africa and Jonty Rhodes is my sporting hero.”

Elyse, who lives in Almondsbury, Bristol, says she felt very isolated until the chance to play sport was suggested.

The 26-year-old joined the Gloucestershire Growlers blind team in April last year and it was when she shone at a blind cricket tournament hosted by RNC that Elyse realised that she could pursue a career in sport.

“We played match against Metro Devils and one of the girls asked if I wanted to try out for the England team - and that was in August,” she said.

Elyse had the trials in January in Croydon and has now sealed her place in the England squad.

“We have a match against the England’s women’s national team at the end of March and there is also a tour to Nepal in July, she said.

“I am a very competitive person and it’s great to wear the badge and it a very exciting time.”

She added: “Of course, to play for Zimbabwe would be nice but I can’t ever see us going back to the country.”

Elyse and her family moved to the UK in 2005, due to troubles in Zimbabwe, and after living Maidenhead they settled in Bristol.

Elyse said: “Playing for a unisex cricket team has been great because I’ve had an opportunity to network with so many different people.”

She is hoping that playing county and national cricket and studying at RNC, will be a stepping stone towards a future career as a cricket coach.

Her six-month sport and recreation course at RNC is gearing Elyse towards employment.

Mark Fisher, the former Barestree and Lugwardine player, is the director of student support services at RNC and coaches the college’s blind cricket team.

“Elyse is very committed and competitive and is an inspiration for other students at RNC,” said Fisher.

“I first saw her in action when the college team played against her Gloucestershire team – and she hit our bowling everywhere and made about 30 runs.

“She is excellent with the bat and bowls very well and we are all very excited about her selection for the England squad.”

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