Illustrious Cricket For The Blind
4 World Cup Trophies, special victories
Sujata Devadas October 07 2020
India’s blind cricket national team won the Blind Cricket World Cup tournaments four times! 1st and 2nd T20 matches in 2012, 2017 and the 4th, 5th ODI World Cup in 2014, 2018.
Visually challenged people playing the national favourite sport at any level may seem impossible but this table gives the short answer:
Blind Cricket Team’s statutory combination of 11 players:
Minimum FOUR totally blind players come under B1 category, wearing white colour wrist band.
THREE partially blind players who can see upto 2 metres distance come under B2 category. Vision less than 2/60. They wear red colour wrist band for identification, and
Maximum FOUR partially sighted players, who can see upto 6 metres distance, Vision less than 6/60. B3 category wears blue colour wrist band for identification.
Made of fibre plastic, the cricket ball has ball bearings inside it - the players rely on sound. Boundaries for a normal cricket match is set between 60 to 75 yards. For blind cricket, the boundary is set between 45 to 55 yards.
The video link https://youtu.be/oTZ7NlKTpJI tells you more.
John David Endala, Chairman of the Selection Committee, says the national team is selected before any international or World Cup tournament. “Usually 60% players remain the same, 40% players will be new”.
India’s women blind cricket teams played their first national tournament in December 2019. The women blind cricket national team will also be selected in the first quarter of 2021 to play a bilateral series against England’s women cricket team next summer.
“62 million visually-challenged people in India,
54 million with low vision, 6 million are blind”
Throughout India, members involved with blind cricket register under the Societies Act in their respective states. Once this registration is complete, Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) gives affiliation to these state boards. “My conservative estimate is that 15,000 visually challenged persons play and follow blind cricket across India. It could be more, much more.”
“During the pandemic COVID19, Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled NGO based in Bangalore gave financial support to 600 blind cricketers, both men and women, having less than Rs,10,000/- monthly family income: Rs.7000/- per head for those residing in metropolitan cities and Rs.5000/ per head living outside the metropolitan cities.”
- John David Endala
K N Chandrashekhar, Treasurer of The Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) announced in its September 2020 blind cricket webinar that Nagesh Trophy, the next National T20 Tournament For The Blind, could happen early next year. John David, who is also CABI’s General Secretary, expects its affiliation with registered 24 state blind cricket associations to rise to 30 by then. That heartening information makes choosing new players for the blind cricket national team more intense. IndusInd Bank has sponsored India’s national blind cricket since 2017.
Funding blind cricket
Like a 100 other youngsters, Ezekiel Baskar volunteered for 2 years with Cricket Association for the Blind in Maharashtra (CABM). Now, he is on its advisory board. “I don’t spend on Indian Premier League (IPL) matches,” he says, “but I gravitate towards the enormous calibre in our blind cricketers and their fascinating blind cricket games.”
25,000 watched the T20 final World Cup match in Bangalore in 2017, promoted hugely by CABI's parent organisation Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. Blind cricket does not fall under para Olympic sport. Entirely different from mainstream cricket that aligns with corporates, brand promotion and advertisements, blind cricket tournaments are funded by Corporate Social Responsibility ie., CSR. CABM volunteer Pankti Vyas emphasises, “expenditure details are sent back to the donor company for transparency”. “It is particularly frustrating,” adds John David, “to have to wait till the last minute for a company to come forward and support a blind cricket tournament.” He is well aware of the difficulty in getting sufficient funds.
‘BCCI’, The Board of Control for Cricket in India is the national board for all mainstream cricket affairs in India. For 2017 and 2018, 2 consecutive years, BCCI gave CABI a grant of Rs 24.5 lakhs. Each player received Rs.3 lakhs after the 2017 T20 World Cup win from BCCI. Similarly, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports also gave each player Rs.5 lakhs for each of the World Cup victories from 2014.
Don’t kid yourself
Visually challenged people did not enter sports with cricket. It was first chess, then judo and football. Indian Blind Sports Association (IBSA) now lists kabaddi, powerlifting, lawn tennis, races, long jump, javelin, discus throws, shot put, swimming as the games in which zonal and inter-state tournaments are held. It holds coaching camps and seminars for blind sportsmen. Established by the Blind Relief Association in Delhi, IBSA’s affiliations include Paralympic Committee of India and the International Blind Sports Federation. It has Indian Olympic Association’s recognition.
Reluctance and the suggestion
“South Asian teams India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are among the best cricket playing countries among the World Blind Cricket Council’s full members. But, despite their victories at international tournaments, BCCI has not given full fledged support to the blind cricket national team,” says John David.
The Publicity Factor
“Players come from within the interior of the state,” explains Pankti, ”so state blind cricket associations give the press release and press note to all the local newspapers. Other than that, it is banners forming the stage backdrop in opening and closing ceremonies and on the stand where the prizes are awarded that publicise blind cricket matches. Players carry the logo of the donor companies on their sports uniforms. High charges taken by cricket grounds in Mumbai limits the amount available for branding and promotions. Taking permission from the cricket ground managements allow more prominent boundary branding during national and international tournaments.”
In the first ODI World Blind Cricket Tournament held in Delhi, Pakistan entered the finals and became runner-up to South Africa in 1998. Pakistan won the 2nd ODI World Cup in 2002 at Chennai. With these victories, they approached Pakistan Cricket Board and got their full fledged support. England also offers full support to their blind cricket national teams.
The huge question then, is why after notching up blind cricket World Cup victories 4 times, winning the Asia Cup in 2016 and the triangular contest between England, Sri Lanka and India in 2018, BCCI fights shy of giving India’s blind cricket national team its full support.
Amol Karche (B1)
- born blind to a destitute family in a village, near Pune
- loan funded education
- introduced to blind cricket by friends in college
- borrowed a bat to play
- CABM selects him for great potential
- CABM trains him; provides economic support
- Amol played in:
India - Australia (2014)
4th ODI World Cup (2014)
Asia Cup (2016)
India - Sri Lanka bilateral series (2018)
India-England-SriLanka Triangular series (2018)
Awarded Man of the Match & Series in local tournaments.
Mumbai cricket team receives cricket bats from Ezekiel Baskar on his 21st birthday
Ajay Kumar Reddy (B2)
- Promoted Officer, Sports Quota, State Bank of India
- Man of the Match & Series in his debut as Blind Cricket Indian National Team player (2010)
- Captain, Indian Blind Cricket National Team since 2016
- Led India as Skipper to win all Cricket Championships formats: bilateral & trilateral series, Asia Cup, T20 and ODI World Cups.
- Accomplished :
34 half centuries
Rated fastest bowler, best all-rounder in the World in 2010
Awarded Man of the Series 11 times,
Man of the Match 57 times.
“So many will be motivated IF our blind cricket had its own Premier League,” responds Ezekiel, “we call them special people. We should mean it.” A KarmaVeer Chakra Bronze award winner for bringing about social Justice and empowerment, Ezekiel bought cricket bats with his pocket money for the entire Mumbai blind cricket team on his 21st birthday for their official matches and gifted it to them.
The four World Cup victories are attributed as much to the 17 member of the Indian team as to John David, their Head Coach. His own story:
“My eyesight may have been bad from birth, but its severity was diagnosed while I was 11,” he says. “Even before this diagnosis, I competed in sports with regular students quite well during my school days in Mumbai. I began playing blind cricket from 1989. Ramakant Satam has been involved with blind cricket right from the very beginning. He initiated and formed Maharastra state-level team and is CABM’s Association Secretary. To this day, he is always of great assistance.”
John David was Maharastra team’s Captain at the time. “We got no structured formal training,” he remembers, “we learnt directly from seniors and practiced with team mates. In my first opportunity to play for National Federation of the Blind in Mumbai, I performed well.” He went on to play in State, Zonal and National level matches. Top order batsman, John David opened the batting. A good all round player, he won several Man of the Match, Man of the Series, Best Bowler & Best Batsman awards.
Listen, and each player unfolds another distinguishing, touching story. Bring it together. Some excellent sport action emerged from it. Keep watching … for their next game.
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