The game of cricket is perhaps the ultimate test of hand-eye co-ordination. The Indian cricket team has proved it infinite times and brought glory to the country. But this time it’s not the team captained by Sachin, Dhoni or Virat that made the Indians proud, it is the Indian Cricket team for the Blind!
The second edition of the T20 Blind World Cup, hosted by India contested with great zeal and dynamism. India won the tournament after beating Pakistan by nine wickets in the finals at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. Riding on an unbeaten 99 by opener Prakash Jayaramaiah, India chased down a score of 198 with a loss of just one wicket and 14 balls to spare. India versus Pakistan matches usually draw hundreds of millions of television viewers but this particular final between the blind teams of both the countries brought in great applause and appreciation to all the players.
The event was organized by the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI), which is supported by the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled and is affiliated to the World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC). The ten-nation tournament featured 48 matches held from 28 January 2017 to 12 February 2017 at multi cities in India. The teams participating are England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan with India as the host. India won 8 of the 9 matches it played in the tournament, ironically losing a group stage match to Pakistan. Pakistani team, on the other hand, won all the matches except the finals. For the 2nd T20 World Cup for the Blind, Rahul Dravid was chosen as the Brand Ambassador.
The Indian team has emerged as the best team in the world by winning all the formats of International Championship including First T20 World Cup in December 2012, ODI World Cup in December 2014, T20 Asia Cup in January 2016 and recently the T20 World Cup.
Cricket for the Blind was introduced in Australia in the 1920s and made its opening in India in 1980. The rules of cricket are modified for the visually impaired players to play. The ball has few ball bearings inside it, producing audio for the players’ ease. Designed by National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun, the ball is currently accepted as an international standard ball. The teams guide the players through verbal signals like the word ‘play’ while the ball is delivered. The game also involves underarm bowling and the field is slightly smaller in area. Totally blind fielders are allowed to catch the ball on the bounce.
The game boosts the confidence of visually impaired players and abandons the feeling of denial and dependency from their minds. Also, it kindles social responsibility in every individual and organization. Whosoever contributed to this event enjoys a tax exemption under section 80G of Indian Income Tax Act. The tournament raised funds by selling the unique balls and t-shirts through their website which would be used to support the cause for visually impaired. The team runs on donations and awareness campaigns. They believe that with funds, they can have better equipment and thus can perform better.
India’s blind cricket team has been performing astonishingly well but hasn’t got much recognition and attention. Unfortunately, it is the only team not affiliated to its country’s national board. BCCI is yet to recognize blind cricket and this is one of the team’s major demands.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a congratulatory message on Twitter for the triumphant team. Also, Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar applauded the team on Twitter. Another tweet by Virendra Sehwag gathered criticism as the hashtag #OtherMenInBlue was taken as an offense by a few players.