Josh Price - "Playing for England has made me prouder of my deafness"

England Deaf vice-captain Josh Price explains the impact playing for the Three Lions on his live both on and off the pitch.

By Sam Dalling

Eventually, following a little careful deliberation, Josh Price lands precisely where he wants. His knack of doing just that with his canny left-arm spin is well known on the disability cricket circuit, but here delivery involves language. "I think pride is the word, the feeling," says the England Deaf vice-captain when reflecting on the positive impact of being part of the international set-up.  

"It’s made me a lot more confident about being deaf," he continues. "Before I wasn’t at all. I just parked it. I didn’t really think about it too much. But it has definitely made me become a lot prouder of my deafness – in all walks of life."

Price is speaking ahead of the squad’s first ever bilateral series against India, a seven game T20 extravaganza taking place across five venues in 10 days. He cites a non-cricketing example to demonstrate the shifting of the sand. A teacher in a mainstream school, Price uses signing in his lessons now. "I never would have done before. And I might say ‘because I’m deaf, I need you to do this,’ whereas I wouldn’t have previously. For example, I need all of the students facing me because, if everyone else is talking when I’m talking to another student, I just can’t hear them."

Price pauses momentarily. Then he smiles. "But I also use it as an excuse for behaviour management! I like keeping the classroom a calm, quiet environment."

Being an England international has also led to on-field changes, too. Growing up, Price – who was born with his deafness - rarely played football or cricket without his hearing aids. "A doctor once told me when I was about 10 that I shouldn’t wear them in case I got hit," he says. Back then, medical advice was not heeded. And now?

Playing without aids is mandatory in deaf cricket, but Price leaves them in his kit bag while turning out for Streatham and Marlborough CC. "I’m not a shy person but I was shy with my deafness. Too shy, I guess. Being with the deaf squad has made me a lot more confident about it."

It was while playing club cricket that Price stumbled into the disability game. "I was batting and said to the opposition wicketkeeper, ‘is that guy deaf?’ He had a cochlear implant."

That guy was now retired international star Mike O’Mahony, founder of the England Cricket Association for the Deaf back in 2003. A post-play chat was the catalyst for Price first turning out for Surrey and then, after the pandemic, for England.

Price’s maiden international series saw him help write history. The Deaf squad had never claimed an Ashes win but emerged as comfortable victors on Australian soil in 2022.

Price was named man of the series, finishing with 11 wickets in eight games. He also averaged 32 with the bat. Later that summer, he led the Hawks to the inaugural Disability Premier League title before a stellar 12 months was capped when he was named the Lord’s Taverners Disability Cricketer of the Year. Price is deferential when it comes to accolades, reeling off the contributions of teammates seemingly to avoid acknowledging his own part.  For him, “it's more about the group. Bar three or four of us, we all live and work in the hearing world. It’s nice that we come together with something to work towards, to engage with, to focus on.

"In Australia, we were fortunate enough to win and that feeling was great. Being an England athlete is great too, but it’s more about the group. I wouldn't say this to my mates at my club, but it's a different feeling. There's more meaning to it."

How does playing cricket as a deaf person differ? "We see the world differently, but we also play cricket differently," he says. "For example, as a batter the feeling of rhythm and hitting the ball is not necessarily the same as for a hearing person. As I’ve always been deaf, I can’t compare directly, but whereas a hearing person might say ‘that sounded good when I hit it’, I would say ‘that feels good’"

It takes only minutes in Price’s company to realise why he is the perfect foil for skipper George Greenway. Price’s calmness both tempers and dovetails with Greenway’s naturally more aggressive approach. "It’s important that he keeps that," insists Price. "That competitiveness is what drives us all along - we work off it. We feed off each other well. He's an excellent captain."

Heading into the India upcoming series, disability cricket’s profile has never been higher. With that, comes a driving up of standards. The draft ahead of the third iteration of the DPL, for example, left scores of players disappointed.

Price, 33, is aware that coming into the game as an 18-year-old now would have been perfect timing. But then again, given 54-year-old teammate Umesh Valjee will feature heavily against India, presumably Price has many years ahead of him?  "George and I joke about that," replies Price with a grin. "I’ve had surgery on my ankle already. Two T20s in a day is enough - I need a rest after that. I’m not sure I’ll still be playing at that age!"

England Deaf face India in seven IT20s, starting on Tuesday 18 June in Derby. All matches will be streamed live on the ECB YouTube channel.

England Deaf v India Deaf fixtures

Tuesday June 18: England Men’s Deaf v India Deaf (1st IT20), The County Ground, Derby - 5.30pm
Thursday June 20: England Men’s Deaf v India Deaf (2nd IT20), Kidderminster Cricket Club - 10.30am
Thursday June 20: England Men’s Deaf v India Deaf (3rd IT20), Kidderminster Cricket Club - 2.30pm
Sunday June 23: England Men’s Deaf v India Deaf (4th IT20), The County Ground, Northampton - 3pm
Tuesday June 25: England Men’s Deaf v India Deaf (5th IT20), Astwood Bank Cricket Club - 10.30am
Tuesday June 25: England Men’s Deaf v India Deaf (6th IT20), Astwood Bank Cricket Club - 2.30pm
Thursday June 27: England Men’s Deaf v India Deaf (7th IT20), The Uptonsteel County Ground, Leicester - 11.30am