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Indian Blind Cricket Team confident of lifting World Cup in South Africa

ANALYST
Editor's Pick
25 Nov 2014, 13:59 IST
The Indian Blind Cricket Team with the T20 World Cup in 2012

Every cricket fan in India it seems is currently gun-go about the Indian cricket team’s chances in the upcoming 50-over cricket World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand early next year. However, very few of you would perhaps know that another Indian cricket team is gearing up for a similar challenge in the next few days. The Indian Blind Cricket Team are all set to participate in the 4th One-Day International World Cup Cricket Tournament for the Blind to be held at Cape Town in South Africa from 25th November to 9th December 2014, in which 10 Test playing countries are going to take part.

ODI World Cup for the Blind – 4th edition about to begin

The 50-over World Cup for the Blind is back after a gap of eight years; the last one being held in Pakistan in 2006. The first and second 50-over World Cups were held in India in 1998 and 2002 respectively. While South Africa won the first one, Pakistan won the second and third ones.

The Indian team are incidentally the current world champions of the T20 event that was held in 2012 in which they beat their arch-rivals Pakistan in a thrilling encounter. And now, the team’s focus is the upcoming tournament, in which they were the runners-up last time around; losing to Pakistan.

The Indian team, unfortunately, is the only one which is not affiliated by its national cricket board. The other teams, including a much smaller one like Pakistan, get full support from their respective cricket boards. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), for some reason, refuse to acknowledge the national blind cricket team, despite innumerable attempts from the blind cricket team’s authorities for the same. The Indian blind cricket team is sponsored by the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI), the sporting wing of Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled; a non-profit organization.

Over the past few years, the CABI has done it all to ensure that the Indian blind cricket team gets all the help it can get to compete at the international level. Despite their support, however, it becomes difficult for the players to play the game thoroughly. In fact, one would be rather embarrassed to know that the team apparently struggled to get the kits, uniforms, and air fares for their trip to South Africa to participate in the upcoming event. In fact, many players are known to have paid out of their own pockets to contribute for the jerseys and kits.

Captain and coach confident

For now though, the players and the team management have put these unfortunate issues aside and are buoyant about their chances in the World Cup. In fact, for them, to get the opportunity to play in a mega event like this and represent the country is in itself the stimulus to perform well.

“We aren’t nervous at all. In fact, we are looking forward to do well here and win the trophy. I am very confident of our chances,” said the team’s captain Shekar Naik excitedly.

The coach, Patrick Rajkumar, too is quietly confident.

“We have had a very good and rigorous 20-day camp in Bangalore and the team looks in great shape. We have sorted out a good combination and made plans for every player in the tournament. It will be a big challenge for us; competing against the best teams of the world. The boys are upbeat and are raring to go,” he said before leaving for South Africa with the 17-member squad.

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Pakistan, the two-time champions of the longer format, would be the team to beat of course. Then there is Sri Lanka, who are being considered as the dark horses for this tournament. South Africa, playing at home will, of course, be firm favourites. Apart from the teams they face, the Indians would also have to cope with the conditions in South Africa which would be vastly different from the ones they are used to playing here.

“Yes, the pitches would be bouncy and fast. But that is good in a way for us as we have a very good bunch of fast bowlers,” said the coach confidently.

The current Indian Blind Cricket Team squad

The Indian team indeed has a very fine bunch of players going into the tourney. Wicketkeeper-batsman Prakash Jai Ramayya, who is also one of the openers, has been in excellent nick in the last few international games he has played. Ajay Reddy, the opening bowler, according to the coach, has regained his lost touch and is looking in great rhythm.

Another relatively unknown player Amol Khatke will be making his debut for India in the tournament and has got the entire squad excited. “He is a real discovery and I believe he will be our trump card in the World Cup. He looks like an excellent bowler,” said Patrick. The team has a good bunch of all-rounders as well and various stars might emerge from it by the end of the championship.

Apart from them, the captain Shekar Naik should hold the backbone of the team’s batting as he always has these past many years. Shekar, who led India to the inaugural Blind T20 World Cup victory, would in all probabilities be playing his last international tournament for the country.

“My entire focus right now is to bring the trophy for my country. Pakistan is one team we are really looking forward to playing as they have always been the toughest. Once we are past them, I am certain that we will tackle everyone else. I am hoping for the best,” said the affable captain before signing off.

Pakistan – the biggest threat

India play their first match of the competition against Pakistan on the 28th of November. After that, they have six more league games to play before the knock-out stages begin. We certainly hope that the team goes on to play the finals and lift the trophy that would give them much reason to cheer.

More than anything else though, the fact that our blind cricketers are participating in a global tournament, despite all odds, is reason enough to applaud them. Most of these players come from impoverished backgrounds and find it really tough to make two ends meet. For them, playing in such a competition means taking a long break from their full-time professions and devoting a good amount of time to the game. Yet, they do it with a lot of passion.

It is rather unfortunate thus, that even the warm-up games of India’s tour to Australia get reported live in our media while there is almost no coverage for such a big event for the blind cricketers.

Nevertheless, one hopes that our blind cricket team goes on to excel and cherish its dream in the forthcoming days; of lifting the World Cup and getting recognitions from the BCCI and the common people alike.

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