'Blind' Love: 78-year-old visually challenged Jones loves 'feeling' cricket from stadium
The hair is dishevelled, beard unkempt and shirt untucked. The old man, with a white stick, walks up to the designated stand, keeps his bag down, and quietly takes his seat.
Wellington : The hair is dishevelled, beard unkempt and shirt untucked. The old man, with a white stick, walks up to the designated stand, keeps his bag down, and quietly takes his seat.
A young volunteer walks up to him with a cup of coffee. "Allan, your coffee and sugar is added, make sure you don't spill it," the young lady is off in a flash. "Excuse me, are you ….?" "Yes, I am blind. My name is Allan Jones and I love coming to cricket matches," the old man replies before you finish your question and smiles.
The 78-year-old is visually challenged since birth but he still turns up to take his designated seat whenever there is a Test match at the Basin Reverse. He can't see the action but the Septuagenarian hears the radio commentary of one of his favourites, Jeremy Coney.
Jones says he loves to hear the sound of the bat hitting the ball, "feeling" cricket from the stadium, where he has his ear-piece plugged in to follow Coney.
You suddenly want to know more about him as he fishes out an old fashioned small FM radio and plugs in the ear-piece. "I love Jeremy Coney's commentary during Test matches. I come to the ground and listen to him and Brian Waddle to get the feeling of what's happening on the ground.
"This is my designated seat (on RA Vance Members Stand) at the Basin Reserve for the last 40 years," Jones says, the serene smile refusing to leave his face.
So how did he lose his eyesight? Was it some accident? "Oh no, I have been blind for the last 78 years, since my birth," he says nonchalantly. "But I love coming to the ground for Test matches.
I can sit through the five days and enjoy the twists and turns. Test cricket is like life. I enjoy that sound when the ball hits the middle of the bat.
"And then Jeremy Coney or Jonathan Agnew of BBC Test Match Special (TMS) makes me feel the game. Also on radio, it catches the stump-mic conversations. I get fascinated," Jones reveals, with such innocence that you are sold. So when did his love affair with cricket start?
"It started when I was in the United Kingdom for three years as a community worker. I used to live in London and I would go to the Oval and the Lord's and tune into the BBC TMS on radio. Then when I came back to New Zealand, I started coming to the Basin Reserve."
He loves the sound of drums and dhols and the energy and festive atmosphere that even a motley bunch of Indian supporters can bring into any game. "Those drum beats, the clap after a boundary. I love it all. The sound keeps me going. I love soaking in this atmosphere.
"My wife or a friend drops me and at times I come on my own in a bus. I buy the tickets at times," says Jones, who has a degree in psychology and worked as a counsellor for young people suffering from mental health issues.
Do you give them your example of how you have battled a major physical impediment when you are talking to someone who is feeling low?
"I have at times but most of the times, your job is to hear them out as they might have a lot to say which is bottled up inside them. I still work as a counsellor on and off."
Back to cricket, who is your favourite cricketer, I ask him. "Mine is Jimmy Neesham because he went to the same school as me – Auckland Grammar School. I went to the Blind section."
As you shake hands and is ready to say good bye, he tells you about something that worries him. "I am interested in knowing about what are the elements when the new broadcast rights are signed," he says. And why is that? "Hopefully the radio commentary is not affected," he is still smiling and you keep looking at him.