The Shi-Shun Burgess story: a tale of inspiration, dedication and overcoming adversity
Shi-Shun Burgess is a true inspiration and for good reason.
The 21-year-old Somerset cricketer was born with a bone deformity in his left leg that hinders mobility.
However, he has never allowed the physical impairment to deter him from playing the sport that he loves.
“When my mother was pregnant with me she had cancer and my leg actually formed around it, and so it caused some problems there,” Burgess said. “I had an abnormal bone deformity where the leg was actually bent, and so it was like a weaker bone basically where the bend was created.
“I’ve had the situation my whole life but you can’t just let that stop you. Everybody has their cards and it’s just a matter how you play them.
“Of course, people laugh and ask ‛who is that guy with the leg messed up or that guy with the limp?’
“But I’ve always been able to make myself a presence on the field and I love that feeling. I might not be the best, but you will recognise me.”
Sadly, Burgess’s mother succumbed to her illness six weeks after he was born.
Family tragedy then struck again when he became an orphan at age 15 after his father passed.
Through all of the pain, sport offered Burgess some degree of comfort and a means of helping to come to terms with his tremendous loss.
Thoughts of his parents are never far from mind, especially whenever Burgess steps on to the cricket pitch to play in their memory.
“I try and keep that energy with me when I go out there because now I’m not only playing for myself, I’m playing for both my parents,” he said.
“A lot of people ask ‘where you get your sports from’ because my parents were not athletic at all. But I try and think I get it from them and also keep that bright light shining when I play because I have to shine for them, too.”
Born and raised in the parish, Burgess started playing for Somerset at youth level at age 13.
“Shi-Shun came up through the youth programme,” Michael Corday, Somerset’s cricket chairman, recalled. “He was playing like when he was under 16.
“He was in my team and I noticed right away that this young man is fearless. In his mind, he is just like everyone else and that is what’s so wonderful about him.
“When we were short and had players in school, he always wanted to play; always wanted to fill in and would come around, so we just started putting him in the team because we were short and he is useful.
“He is very self-sufficient and he is so coachable; he’s a coach’s dream. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, he wants to be at training.”
Corday added: “He doesn’t allow his physical challenges to get in his way. If you’re fortunate enough to be in his presence for long enough, you notice right away that he carries this attitude and this approach through his whole life.
“I remember I used to go pick him up from church and take him straight to the field and he just couldn’t wait to get on the field.
“He brings such a feelgood and positive vibe to the team and its supporters. He is a very popular guy at SCC.”
Burgess gradually progressed to Somerset’s senior team, making his debut at age 17.
He made several appearances last season in the Premier Division Twenty20 league.
“Last season I believe I played maybe three quarters of the games for Somerset,” he said.
“I made out pretty good; my fielding was up to par. Could have been better in some aspects.”
Burgess achieved a career milestone on August 22 when he dismissed Southampton Rangers’ Gerald Simons, having been given the ball by his captain for the first time at senior level.
Coach Jeff Richardson recalled that the ground “erupted” when Simons’s stumps were knocked back by the left-armer.
“I actually bowled my first over for Somerset and with a senior team and got my first wicket in my first over,” Shi-Shun said understatedly. “When it actually happened I was more shocked than anything.
”It was an awesome feeling just seeing everybody else proud to see me do it as well. I felt the energy for sure.“
Corday was present at Devonshire Recreation Club to witness the special moment.
“Latter part of the season skipper Jordan DeSilva threw him the ball down the Rec and in his first over he cleaned bowled a batsman,” he said. “You would’ve thought it was Cup Match; the entire SCC cricket community celebrated that wicket for weeks. He isn’t even aware of the positive ripple effect he’s had on the Somerset community.
“We are just proud to claim this guy. This young man is fearless and just gets on with his life.”
Burgess never got the opportunity to bat but earned plaudits for his hard work ethic in the field.
Richardson said: “When Shi-Shun gets out there on the field, he runs [the length of the field] from long leg to long leg and doesn’t complain. He is a guy who really loves the game and an inspiration to me and the people he plays with.
“He is always there for the team and, despite his physical disabilities, he still has a hope of playing Cup Match one day and I will continue to help him achieve that if it is ever possible.
“Shi-Shun is an inspiration indeed. If half the players that are playing this game right now had just an ounce of courage this young man has, cricket would be in a better spot.”
Corday went a step further, adding: “If everybody had this young man’s attitude, what a better world this would be.”
Burgess refuses any preferential treatment because of his physical condition.
“He expects to be treated like any other player in the team, no special treatment,” Richardson said.
“He has to do the hard work like everyone. He has to catch the ball no matter how hard I hit it, no matter how high I hit it, no matter how far I hit it.”
Corday added: “I rough him up; I don’t treat any differently than the rest of the guys. I don’t want him to think he is being treated differently, and I think he appreciates that.”
Burgess has dabbled in other sports, including football and rugby union.
But he enjoys cricket most, as it was the only sport he had “equal ground on growing up”.
“I played football, rugby and a lot of sports in primary school and even in middle school,” Burgess said. “But cricket was the one sport that when I stepped out there I could make myself known, so that was the sport I took up as my passion.
“When I played cricket that was the sport I was just as good as anybody else, if not better. I can actually apply myself in that sport and actually be great at that sport.”
“I used to be a spin bowler, actually. But after one of my surgeries I stopped bowling for a long time and had a lot of trouble finding my line and length again. So after that I converted to medium, so now I am a medium bowler.”
Somerset and Southampton were edged by St George’s for the Premier Division Twenty20 title this summer on net run-rate in an exciting finish to an already truncated season because of the global pandemic.
But despite coming up short of glory, Burgess believes he and his team-mates made considerable strides on the pitch towards their goals.
“I’d say we had a great season as a team,” he added. “Of course we didn’t win every game, but we put the pressure on, we fought hard and we showed improvement from seasons before. I feel like overall this season we improved a lot.”
Burgess believes he and his team-mates have a bright future to look forward to given the calibre of players coach Richardson has at his disposal.
“We have the brightest future, I believe we have potential to win every season and I’m not just saying that because it’s my team,” he said. “I honestly do believe that with the quality that’s on our team from top to bottom, so it’s just a matter of us putting the work in.”
Burgess is himself inspired by his peers.
“It so hard for me to single out one person who has given me inspiration,” he said. “As I look around I can see inspirational figures throughout the team, which is why I feel as a team we are great together.”