For these men in blue, vision impairment could never act as a hurdle in their path towards fulfilling their dreams – their inspiring passion for the game of cricket and their desire to be a part of it. The Indian Blind Cricket team has been making the country proud for years now.
The team won the Blind World Cup in 2014 by beating Pakistan in the finals. In 2012, India won the first T20 world cup in Bengaluru, and is the only blind team in the world to have won all three championships – T20, ODI and Asian championship.
Formed in 1998, it is managed by the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI), which is associated with the World Blind Council. Here, Captain Ajay Kumar Reddy talks about his love for cricket, his team, and how ordinary citizens can help them in their game:
Q: Tell us about how you developed a love for cricket and how you started playing the game?
A: I used to enjoy cricket and had the desire to play as well. But it was not possible because of my vision. When I joined blind school, I came to know that cricket is played by the visually impaired too. Soon, I developed my skills with the desire to play at a higher level. After watching my performance, the sports teacher encouraged me to train and also coached me. I concentrated on my performance thereafter.
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Q: How does the team come together and train? How often do you train?
A: Every player practices in his own state and they come together for a coaching camp at a particular venue only before an international match.
Q: Which match has been your most memorable one?
A: The ODI final at Cape Town in December 2014. India needed 141 runs in 11 overs against Pakistan in the finals. After the loss of five wickets, Prakash and I formed a partnership, ending the match in a win.
Q: Can you share some interesting anecdotes about any of your team members?
A: The vice-captain, Prakash Jayaramaiah sits on my shoulders in sheer joy when we get a wicket – so we do have a bit of fun in those terms.
Q: Are there are any special requirements for training or preparing for the matches?
A: We need a turf wicket and a ground covered with grass which is not always available. Training kits are also required.
Q: If a visually impaired person wants to pursue cricket, how should she/he go about doing so?
A: They should start from the grass root level, which is at school or district levels, and thereafter state and zonal levels. This is easier if they study in schools for the blind where they can showcase their talent to reach the higher league. There are associations in each and every state as well, which can be approached if they wish to play cricket.
Q: How do you think ordinary citizens can help the team, besides just supporting it in matches?
A: They can act as volunteers, help with providing cricketing gear, or through individual donations.