Ketan Patel always remembered being very brave. Despite full blindness, he felt no fear of athletics, or falling or getting lost. It is this courage, he reveals that helped him put himself out there and play his heart out in cricket. This 29-year-old all-rounder, was crucial in the Indian cricket team lifting the World Cup in Blind Cricket 2014 and 2012.
A team united by their passion for cricket
They never ask for the sight screen to be shifted. They can only hear the ball, the strokes and the excited shrieks and shouts of their teammates. The lighting in a day-night game means little to them because the umpire is the only one who sees the game.
"Visually impaired cricketers don't just play for money, jobs, fame or happiness. We play for confidence; we play to prove that a blind man can do anything," confides Shekhar Naik, who led the team in the 2014 World Cup. The outside world might make them feel lesser than the others, but the great thing about sport is that it treats everyone equally.
Shekar Naik, the ex-captain of the national blind cricket team, is the highest run-getter among all blind cricketers in the world. He has played 63 matches across all formats and scored 32 centuries and 15 half-centuries. In the team, he finds loyal friends who have his back at all times.
"Our team has players from 10 different states. We make it a point to learn each other's language, no matter how difficult it is. So a player who comes from the north, even if he is new, has to teach us Hindi and Punjabi. That’s how we get closer," Naik says. So what if they can't see each other.
John David, a blind cricketer himself is the manager for the current Indian Team. Looking after the players can be a challenge, he says, but their teamwork makes things easier for him. "The disability can be a problem sometimes, but even able-bodied cricketers have shortcomings. That’s where teamwork comes in. The boys look out for each other, seamlessly filling in gaps. That is the secret sauce of this team,” he says.
Struggle for recognition
Cricket, like a religion, is followed ardently by the public and media alike. However, Blind Cricket is relatively unknown in India. Despite toiling hours to perfect their game and winning international tournaments, the plight of Indian blind cricket team is at present lamentable.The Indian team, unfortunately, is also the only team not affiliated to its national cricket board.
The other teams, including a much smaller one like Pakistan, get full support from their respective cricket boards. The Indian blind cricket team does not come under the BCCI's ambit and the team is at present sponsored by the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI), the sporting wing of Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled; a non-profit organization. It is only due to the efforts of the Bangalore-based Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, that blind cricket has survived to tell its tale.
Sports enable persons with disabilities to develop independence, confidence, social skills, responsibility, leadership qualities and livelihood skills. It changes the common perception of persons with disabilities by focusing attention on their ability rather than disability. Even with overwhelming odds and zero funding, the blind cricketers themselves, who primarily come from India’s hinterlands, have a passion for the game and pride for representing the country.
The second T20 World Cup Blind Cricket to be held in India
Despite difficulties, promising times loom for the team as the second T-20 World Cup Cricket Championship for the Blind will be organized by Samarthanam in association with CABI during November-December 2016 this year in multiple locations across the country.
The Indian blind cricket team needs funds for their expenses for participation in the T20 World cup, 2016. So far, the players have had to purchase their own kits for playing on the international field. But now the team needs more to properly build their team for the World Cup. Coaching fee, cricket gears, kits, selection trials are some of the expenses the team requires to ensure their win this year.
The Indian Blind Cricket team wants to lift the World Cup again. Here’s how you can help
The Indian blind cricket team have every year dared to dream about the World Cup – and they have lifted the cup in 2012 and 2014. They dream they can lift the World Cup this year too, in their own country. They dream of being recognised and supported by the Indian cricket fans as well. This series is an opportunity for you to be part of a sporting movement.
Your contribution of as less as Rs. 500 towards the Indian blind cricket team will help them lift the world cup this year.