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Woman cricket umpire pitching for World Cup after eye surgery success

A cricket umpire is aspiring to be one of a handful of female international officials after undergoing laser eye surgery. 

Sophie McLelland, from Hampshire, had laser eye surgery because she was sick of switching between spectacles and sunglasses on the cricket pitch. The 26-year-old, who is one of just 60 women umpires in the UK, is now flourishing in the sport and is already a contender to officiate during the ICC (International Cricket Council) Women’s World Cup in 2017.

“If I hadn’t had laser eye surgery I probably would still be an umpire but it would be a hassle and I probably wouldn’t be as far up the tree as I am now,” Sophie said.

As just one of 60 women cricket umpires officiating in the UK, having good eyesight is vital to Sophie’s ability to make the correct call on the pitch. But she feared she was missing the action as she changed between sunglasses and spectacles.

“When I went onto the cricket pitch I’d need glasses and sunglasses, which was a real pain,” Sophie explained. “At the time I was also working as a stage manager and my job involved a lot of crawling, which meant I was constantly pushing my glasses back on.”

Sophie underwent laser eye surgery at Optical Express’ Shaftesbury Avenue clinic in London in 2012. She admits to being nervous.

“I didn’t wear contacts because I didn’t like the thought of putting something in my eye, so I was a bit anxious, but when I watched the consent video it was clear that Optical Express’ surgeons do lots of procedures every day and there was nothing to worry about. It also helped that the surgeon was chatty.”

She recalls sitting up after her procedure and being able to see much better almost straightaway. A month later, she had recovered so well she was able to drive north to Scotland for a holiday without wearing glasses.

“The first thing I did was buy a pair of Oakley sunglasses,” Sophie said. “I’d always wanted a pair but with a prescription incorporated they were very expensive.” 

Sophie now umpires about 15 matches per season, officiating league matches and occasionally at England women’s friendly matches. 

She added: “Going out onto the cricket pitch is much easier now, and I love that I can wear any sunglasses I want. I also enjoy going swimming much more. I remember going swimming previously with my housemate, and not being able to see her once I had taken my glasses off in the pool”.

“My only regret about laser eye surgery is that I wish I had done it sooner.”