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"Bullet-proof" Hatchett lives to tell the tale

Lewis Hatchett had an extraordinary career Getty Images

Former Sussex seamer Lewis Hatchett is forging a new career as a motivational speaker, inspiring others with the remarkable story of how he overcame a disability to become a professional cricketer.

Hatchett was born with Poland Syndrome, a rare condition which appears in only one in 100,000 births and which affects one side of the body in different ways. In Hatchett's case he is missing his right pectoral muscle and the two ribs that would have been behind it, which means his chest is visibly sunken on that part of his body, leaving complications that he has to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

His right shoulder muscles overcompensated for the missing pectoral, causing these muscles to be over-used and they become fatigued quickly, resulting in aches, burning sensations and headaches daily along with his right chest offering little protection to his right lung.

Although he was advised as a youngster not to play contact sports, Hatchett's determination helped him to overcome his condition. He spent six years as a professional with Sussex, taking 102 wickets in 53 first-team matches in all competitions, and batting in a bullet-proof vest.

He was advised to retire at the end of last season because of a lower-back complaint.

Hatchett is still adjusting to life outside the Sussex dressing room but he has kept busy by helping his brother Bradley in a business networking business, works as a personal trainer - a course he took with the help of PCA funding while he was playing - and has also begun a career as a motivational speaker.

"The more I have spoken about my condition and my path into the game, the more I have realised how rare this story is," Hatchett said. "It's not just relevant to people with disabilities. A lot of the people who have heard me speak don't have a disability, but tell me that, having heard my story, they realise that they don't have a reason to complain about things that they think are wrong in their own lives.

"I could accept not being selected for my cricket, but not my body"

"I believe that there are so many messages in my story that are transferable to all aspects of life and I am really enjoying telling it. Each time I speak I get better and the feedback is brilliant."

Hatchett was not always so comfortable in discussing his condition and for a long time he hid it so that it could not be used as an excuse to not select him.

"I protected it because I didn't want to give anyone the chance to use it against me, to not pick me or to drop me. I could accept not being selected for my cricket, but not my body, that wasn't an option in my eyes," he said.

"I worked incredibly hard to make myself the fittest player in the team so no one could use my body against me. I know I did everything possible to play professional cricket and probably went further than I ever should have.

"My family never made it a big deal. I have a younger brother who is fully able-bodied. We competed against each for years and I didn't see myself as any different for him.

"I wasn't put in cotton wool. I wasn't protected from anything. As a youngster I knew I wasn't the best player around, but I knew I could work harder than everyone else I came up against and I'd give myself a chance, which is what I did."

Hatchett's condition meant that he had to work hard to develop his leading right arm for bowling and catching. The vulnerability of his right chest meant that, if struck, the consequences could have been fatal and so he had a specially-designed vest made out of Kevlar to protect the right side of his chest while batting.

"The chest guard was something I had built in my second year of being a pro because I realised that chest guards that you get off the shelf weren't going to cut the mustard with bowlers bowling up to 90mph," Hatchett said. "The Kevlar chest guard is literally bulletproof, so when I was batting I could say to bowlers, I'm bulletproof!"