SHOALHAVEN paratriathlete Jonathan Goerlach donned the baggy green for the first time on December 2 as he played for Australia in the inaugural T20 World Cup for the Blind in India.
Thirty-nine matches were staged over two weeks at Bangalore’s Central College and Aditya Global Sports Grounds.
The Australian team played for eight days straight between December 2 and 9, with a game each day against India, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, England, and South Africa.
The Australian team finished the tournament in fifth position, winning four matches and just missing out on a finals berth after it narrowly lost to England.
In the England match, Australia batted first and made 275 runs, which England just managed to chase down in the last two balls of its innings.
“There was nothing in it really,” said Goerlach.
“It was such a good game it could have gone either way.”
The host nation India confirmed its pre-tournament favouritism, defeating Pakistan by 30 runs in the final.
“Blind cricket is quite big in India and Pakistan. As cricket is their number one sport, the Indian and Pakistani blind cricketers get paid and the sport has a good following. There were good crowds, especially for the Indian and Pakistan games. A lot of people came out to watch and see what it was all about,” said Goerlach.
“Playing against India and Pakistan, those teams are always going to win because they are the best countries in the world at tbe moment and their players are considered professionals,” he said.
“But that’s not to say that down the track we can’t catch up.”
Goerlach said that in terms of competition, Australia sits in the middle with about four of five other countries.
“So we were really playing for third or fourth spot,” he said.
“With England and Sri Lanka, there was not much in it. On a different day it could have gone another way.”
Goerlach took a break from his usual sport, paratriathlon, in August to attend a three-day cricket training and selection camp in Brisbane. He was selected with 16 other men to head to India, even though he had never played blind cricket before.
In blind cricket, players are classified in three categories; B1, B2 and B3.
Goerlach is a B2, which means he still has some of his vision and was selected as a fielding all-rounder because of his skill in the field.
“The best part about the experience for me personally was that it was exciting to be part of a team sport. Triathlon can be very isolating, even with your guide. So it was great for that team aspect of travelling with the team, training together, and it is less pressure,” he said.
“It was also great to share all my experiences with the Lords Taverners NSW, who are a charity supporting vision and hearing impaired, indigenous, and female cricketers, and were generous enough to fund my trip to India.
“As a team, (the best part was) playing hard and just pushing forward, building the team, getting more professional, so hopefully next time we can make the semis.”
As well as playing cricket, the Australian team got to immerse themselves in the Indian culture.
The team visited a local blind school to which they donated 26000 rupees, visited open air markets, and went go-kart racing.
“Go-karting is not something you would expect from a vision impaired team,” he laughed.
“Most of the guys have never even driven a car. But it was great to get out and rip around on the track.”
Goerlach said he did not know whether or not he will continue with the Australian team as the next international tournament will not be held until 2014, which is getting too close to the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
He is also kept busy with triathlon commitments.
Goerlach will compete in the inaugural Australian National Paratriathlon Championships in Penrith on January 11.
The championships are an International Triathlon Union sanctioned event and count towards international ranking points.
Goerlach will also play in an exhibition T20 blind cricket match to be held in Nowra on February 3 between a mixture of NSW and ACT blind cricketers.
The match will be staged before the Shoalhaven Kiteleys Roofing T20 final.
Goerlach’s younger cousin, Hugh Rigney, assisted him in the cricket nets in preparation for the world cup.
As Rigney plays for the Bomaderry T20 team, Goerlach was hopeful their family might be able to watch two games if Bomaderry makes it to the grand final.