A cricketer has spoken of his ‘pride’ after being selected to play for England at the upcoming Blind World Cup.

Tokeer Akhtar, who has family in Blackburn, also told of how he wanted to inspire other people who may find they are restricted from taking part in activities.

Tokeer, 35, was not born blind but in his mid-20s began to lose his sight due to a hereditary condition – Retinitis Pigmentosa.

In his teens and as a youngster, he was a keen cricketer, good with both bat and ball.

Mr Akhtar, who lives in Bolton, said: “I was always interested in cricket and I used to accompany my dad to his games when he played in the Bolton Metropolitan League. I used to do the scoring.

“Later, as I turned 16 I was playing cricket in amateur leagues myself. This included the Bolton Indian Cricket Club, Kashmir and Young Stars.”

An accomplished batter as he grew older, he was finding it difficult to see the ball clearly due to the eye condition.

“Later, it became more and more difficult. I continued to bowl but to bat and field was getting more dangerous I guess.”

By 2014 the condition had deteriorated further and he had to stop playing sport.

“For a number of years I was just trying to figure what to do. Sport was everything to me since I was young age. If it wasn’t cricket then it was football.

“I just gave up completely and found it difficult to adjust.”

Asian Image:

Tokeer with team mates from the Lancashire Lions

Tokeer, who grew up in Deane Road, says he learnt about the opportunities available for the visually impaired in the past year.

“I wanted to do something and get back to being active and I ended up played for Lancashire Lions at the end of last season after impressing them.

“It changed things for me a lot and my outlook.

“I ended up meeting Andrew Flintoff and others at the county awards night.

“In September I was told of some trials for the national side and quite a few of us headed down to Birmingham.

“After the trials I thought nothing of it as I thought there would be so many other talented players out there."

In November, Tokeer’s grandma died and he had to travel to Pakistan.

“I was travelling at the time and I checked my e-mail and saw I had been selected.

"It was a strange moment as it came during what was a sad time for the family. I didn’t tell anyone until later.”

Asian Image:

Tokeer only got back into cricket in the past year

Tokeer, who was the only player from Lancashire Lions to be selected for England during the latest trials, has met up with the team during training sessions at Edgbaston.

“I am hoping now to join the team on a warm training session in Spain.

“I do feel I should have maybe got back into playing earlier but I think I was not in the right place and adjusting to all sorts of things as my life changed."

He added: “It is a proud moment for me. I have met so many inspirational people and I just wanted to tell others who may be in a similar situation not to give up.

“I know it has come late for me but I am going to enjoy it much as a I can.

“It is better late than never as they say.”

Tokeer said the support he had received from people around him had been instrumental in helping him to get back into sport.

“I would like thank my family and also my employers for giving me time off to so I can take part in training and other commitments that are required.

“A big thank you to the Lancashire Lions and Sheraz Chohan. He has been actively supporting people and working hard within the community.

"Week in week out he is at different schools, colleges and expos promoting the sport for the visually impaired.”