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Valjee hails crowning moment

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Umesh Valjee

England Deaf captain Umesh Valjee poses with the MBE that he received from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in February

England Deaf captain Umesh Valjee admits receiving his MBE from the Queen ranked as his greatest moment in cricket.

The prolific opener, who was recognised for his services to cricket in the New Year's Honours List, visited Buckingham Palace earlier this month to pick up his gong.

"It was a memorable day," Valjee told ecb.co.uk.

"It was a wonderful experience for my proud parents and fiancé to be able to witness the special day. To meet the queen was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"Every award I've had in the past, like player of the tournament or man of the series, have always been an honour.

"I was named England Disability Cricketer of the Year in 2011 which was a huge achievement but the MBE award is the best feeling so far."

Valjee has enjoyed a magnificent 12 months, which started in Australia where he scored three centuries during England Deaf's tour Down Under.

His feats there, which included leading England to victory in the Twenty20 tri-series, prompted him to be named England Disability Cricketer of the Year at a glittering ceremony at Lord's.

Those achievements, however, were outstripped with news of his MBE.

"I found out back in November," he recalled. "I opened my letter box on my way to work and saw one letter marked with red stamps and crowns. I thought it must have been a speeding fine.

"I read it again and again, trying to understand what is was, then I realised I was being awarded MBE. It hit me for six.

"I stood still for a few seconds trying to recall all those years playing for England. I decided not to say anything to anyone, even my family."

Valjee admitted meeting the Queen was as nerve-wracking as any innings he has played for England.

"I had to wait with all the other recipients in one big room for about an hour and 45 minutes until they called my name," he said. "We were taken into another room and waited in line before walking out to greet the Queen.

"When I was next to be called, I shut my eyes and thought to myself 'it's been a wonderful journey'. I had to pinch myself that I wasn't dreaming.

"I was blown away when I started walking towards the Queen. I was in awe of her and the nerves crept in.

"She asked about my cricket. I don't know what she asked specifically so I chatted away saying I have been representing the England Deaf team for over 22 years, that I love playing cricket and have worked hard to do the best I can for the country.

"Her reply was 'cricket is a good game'."