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Andy Moles: 'I haven't got my brain cut, just lost half a leg'

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Andy Moles speaks about life as an amputee (4:00)

Afghanistan's coach talks about his 10km walk on his prosthetic leg to raise funds for the Professional Cricketers' Trust (4:00)

"Surgeon spoke to me at 7.30am. By 20 to eight, I told him: 'Let's get it done,'" Andy Moles says. "By 12.30pm, I was wheeled down to the operation theatre. And I woke up between 4 and 4.30 and the amputation had been done."

Moles talks about the events of April 4 in a matter-of-fact way from Cape Town, where he lives with his partner Megan when he is not in Kabul, serving as the director of cricket and chairman of selectors for Afghanistan. From early in the year he was regularly in touch with his surgeon to deal with an infection in his left little toe. While Moles was in India with the Afghanistan team at the start of the year, the team doctor had been nursing the wound, but it did not get better. Moles, who is diabetic, did not want to take chances.

The diagnosis in Cape Town revealed the little toe had been infected with a "superbug", MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). A person usually gets infected with MRSA in hospitals but can also get it by touching or sharing clothing with someone who has it, or by touching objects on which the bug might reside. Moles has no idea how he caught it. The infection was aggressive and he was admitted to Cape Town's Mediclinic Louis Leipoldt hospital in late March. Soon after, his left toe was amputated to stop the infection spreading, but the move did not work.

While Moles agrees that the day of his surgery was the toughest of his life, it was "just something that had to be dealt with.

"They had tried to cut away the dead flesh for two weeks, but the infection was resistant to antibiotics and it was getting worse and worse. The options were trying to cut away the infected flesh and try to flush out the bacteria. But whilst it was spreading there was a danger of septicaemia, which would have meant either I could have lost the whole leg or, even worse, my life. So with those options, it was a simple decision: either to risk my life or to lose the leg below my knee.

"It was traumatic. When you are told you are going to lose your left foot, it comes as a shock."

Understanding that he did not really have an alternative and that many in the world could not even afford to get treatment, Moles decided to stay positive and "tackle it head on". He says he was "knocked out by painkillers" for nearly a day and slept for over 24 hours after the operation.

"I went into the operation knowing what's going to happen. The surgeon was excellent. He explained everything that would happen and what the process would be after the operation. As soon as I woke, once I had got over the first 24 hours of grogginess and pain, it was just a case of moving on. My biggest fear was to make sure there was no infection to the wound."

How difficult was it for his family to come to terms with?

"They all were shocked," Moles says. "My sons [one in China and the other in the UK] first didn't how to approach it - whether to joke with me or feel sorry. I just told them, 'It is what it is.' You just have to get on with it. We just face this challenge together."

About a month after the surgery, having used a wheelchair or crutches to move around, Moles was fitted for his prosthetic leg, which he has named Jake. He has been practising walking on it for the past month with the help of crutches.

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"It obviously feels a bit different. When you wear a brand new pair of shoes, you have a new sole. Similarly, my stump [left leg] is inside the prosthetic leg. When I am walking, I have to just gain the confidence and that will come as I walk more and more."

This week Moles has had pain in his left knee, which doctors have told him is due to "wear and tear" from his playing sport in the past. He plans to take cortisone injections to start walking on the prosthetic again.

Depending on how sore the leg is, he walks anywhere between 100 and 400 metres a day. He intends to walk an aggregate of ten kilometres before or during the second Test between England and West Indies in Manchester, with the aim of walking the final kilometre unaided if he can. He is using the 10k challenge to raise money for the Professional Cricketers' Trust in the UK, which paid for his prosthetic.

"They have been very supportive to me. [They have paid] for this new leg that I've got, which is around £10,000. Also, they have given me a lot of support on the mental-health front to make sure I am fine."

Moles has created a Just Giving page and donations made there will go to the trust. "I am using this challenge to get myself up and mobile, but also hopefully [looking to] use it as an inspiration to other people, so that they can get over difficulties in their life. And also use it to raise funds for this great charity that looks after first-class cricketers in England that have fallen on difficult times."

In 2014 when Moles took over as Afghanistan's head coach, he knew it was going to be the most challenging assignment of his career. He had earned his badge as a solid and dependable batsman at Warwickshire, and had served as head coach for New Zealand, Kenya and Scotland after retirement.

The thrill of working in a land of untapped cricketing talent drew him to Afghanistan. Even a warning from his brother, who works in counter-terrorism, to not work in a country considered one of the most dangerous in the world did not dissuade him. In Kabul, even when he only travels between the hotel and the Afghanistan Cricket Board office, Moles sees the ravages of war, including people living without limbs.

"None of us know what is in store in our future. I would have never thought I would walk on a prosthetic, but there you are. I have got to make the best of the situation that I find myself in."

Lutfullah Stanikzai, the ACB chief executive, says that Moles has been brave to stay and work for the last five years in a country that hardly gets any overseas visitors.

"He is a very courageous guy. That is what is important."

Moles has been integral to the development of the region's cricket, especially young talent, and he is well respected by the players. In 2018, he was the coach when Afghanistan reached the U-19 World Cup semi-finals, and last year he was the interim head coach when they won a Test in Bangladesh.

"His disability actually has not been a problem for us," Stanikzai says. "We haven't considered that as part of him not being able to do his job well. It is his experience, expertise, knowledge and understanding of Afghan cricket that matter to us. He is a very passionate guy. We as the administration have tried to retain him for as long as we can. He has been a good member of our [management] team."

Moles is looking forward to cricket restarting after the Covid-19 pandemic, which has given him time to recuperate. "I am lucky there has been no cricket going, so I have been able to rest at home. But I am looking forward to getting back to Kabul, seeing the players and plotting fixtures and camps.

"Cricket remains the same. I haven't got my brain cut. I haven't lost my vision or mobility or tactical awareness. It is just a case of: I have got half a leg. That's it. That's all it is. I still have to assist and help many players and teams be the best they can be. That's my role as a coach.

"It is a new challenge. So far as work is concerned, it is all the same. The main work at the moment is basically ensuring cricket restarts in the country and make sure everybody is safe and looking after themselves."