England and Surrey wicketkeeper Steven Davies has revealed he is gay, becoming the first playing professional cricketer to so. Davies, who was part of England's successful Ashes tour, went public with the news in an interview with the Daily Telegraph . He said he was comfortable with who he is and hopes his announcement would make it easier for others to be open about their sexuality.

"I'm comfortable with who I am - and happy to say who I am in public," Davies said. "To speak out is a massive relief for me, but if I can just help one person to deal with their sexuality then that's all I care about."

Davies came out to his friends and family five years ago and confided in England coach Andy Flower ahead of the Ashes tour, with Flower and captain Andrew Strauss then letting the rest of the squad know.

"It was a fantastic thing to do, telling the lads," he said. "The difference is huge. I am so much happier. I told Andy Flower first. It was a tough thing for me to do, to tell him face-to-face, but I had to do it. He supported me 100%, [both] him and Andrew Strauss. It was the right thing to do as I felt I couldn't live like this anymore.

"I didn't enjoy going on tour too much because of the secret, and the Ashes was going to be a 3½-month tour. That's a long time and I would have really struggled to finish it. My sexuality is an essential part of who I am, so I wanted the boys to know."

Strauss said that he would tell half the squad, with Flower telling the others. Two days later, Davies met his team-mates at Lord's, where their reaction could not have been more supportive.

"I was so nervous," he said. "I got there really early -- I was the first one. I couldn't think of anything except what they were going to say and how they would react. In fact, everyone was great. They just said it wasn't an issue."

Matt Prior, who was his rival for the wicketkeeping position and is playing that role in the World Cup, came over to give Davies a hug. "He couldn't believe I had kept it to myself for this long," Davies said. "He said I should have told him. That was special."

Davies becomes one of only a handful of professional sportsmen to come out. Footballer Justin Fashanu, who died in 1998, and dual-code rugby international Gareth Thomas are the only two British sportsman to previously do so during their playing careers. "Gareth Thomas' story helped me," Davies said. "It showed me it can be done. He was brave enough to stand up and say who he was. If I can help anyone else like he helped me, that would be great."

Flower said he has the full support of the England set up and backed Davies to regain his place in the one-day squad he lost just prior to the World Cup. "This is something Steve chose to discuss with me and the squad some time ago. I would like to make it very clear that Steve is first and foremost a very talented cricketer and a valued member of the England set-up.

"Steve has had and will continue to have the full respect and support of the entire squad and everyone involved in England cricket. I have no doubt that he will continue to work hard to regain a place in the England squad."

Davies' England team-mate batsman Ian Bell said the news had no affect on team whatsoever. "For us as a group, it didn't affect anything for Steve or any of the other lads," Bell said. "It helped him by speaking to the guys and we just got on with it. He's a fantastic cricketer and we're all with him. We support Steve as any of the other lads. He's a good mate of mine and that doesn't change absolutely anything. He's a massively important person in our team going forward. The more cricket he can play for England, the better."

Vikram Solanki, chairman of the Professional Cricketers' Association, and Davies' former team-mate at Worcestershire said: "Steve has the full support of all his colleagues in cricket. Many of those Steve plays with and against have known about this for some time and none of them regard it as anything other than an entirely personal matter."