Heaven takes game to higher level

AUSTRALIAN blind cricketer Lindsay Heaven will feature in an exhibition match in Warrnambool today.

The 21-year-old and his Victorian Blind Cricket Association teammates are in town to promote the sport to youngsters as part of the South West Games and One and All Festival.

Heaven picked up the game in as a teenager.

He had initially played field hockey and "sighted cricket" before his vision deteriorated.

The talented all-rounder crossed to the blind and partially-sighted cricket competition in 2005 and was selected on the Australian squad in the same year.

"The transition was quite easy for me," he said.

"I just had to learn the intricacies of the game.

"I've developed my game since then."

Since joining the national squad, Heaven has collected 28 international caps.

Most recently, he has toured the Caribbean and New Zealand.

"You can really and truly go anywhere with this sport," he said.

"I was fortunate that I got into the Australian side when they were looking at developing their youth.

"They took a punt on me."

Heaven went to highschool in Balwyn and is nearing completion of a business degree at RMIT in Melbourne.

His eye condition, Stargardts disease, slowly took hold when he was a teenager.

Put simply, the disease is the "juvenile version of macular degeneration, like most old people get".

Heaven said his central vision was blurred but his peripheral vision was sharp.

"But I don't let it hold me back," he said.

The fast bowler's journey has allowed him to see the importance of sport.

"Particularly for young people, it's crucial," he said.

"I was fortunate because I had very good eye sight for a long time.

"But young people can feel isolated when they're losing their vision.

"With cricket, you can walk into a place where there are a lot of people similar to you."

Heaven is preparing to confront the Pakistani blind cricket team, which will visit Adelaide in February.

Australia will use the encounter as a warm up for the World Cup in August.

"The game is dominated by the sub-continent," Heaven said.

"We've got 250 blind cricketers in Australia but they have 1700 in Pakistan.

"You've just got to do the maths."

A south-west side will contest today's Twenty20 match.

VBCA President, Alf O'Neil hopes to recruit some junior players.

"Part of the concept of playing these matches is to try to improve our membership," he said.

"Who knows, we might be able to establish a team in a regional area."

The game starts at 10am at Davidson Oval, Caramut Road, Warrnambool.

Entry is free and a sausage sizzle will help raise funds for Vision Australia.

Simulation goggles will be on hand for those curious to understand the sport from a visually-impaired cricketer's perspective.

A radar will also clock deliveries in the Access for All Abilities fastest bowler competition.

The event will be moved to Action Fitness and Leisure Centre in the case of wet weather.

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