BATTING MANY ODDS

THE Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) is an independent entity, which
is backed by the Samarthanam Trust, a non-profit organisation. The Indian visually
handicapped cricket team was formed in 1998 and is being managed by CABI. It is
associated with the World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC) and is the apex body in India.

By Shivangani Dhawan

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Around 25 states are associated with CABI, which is the only authorising body to get other teams to play cricket. The team participates in all one-day International and T-20 International cricket matches. In 2012, India beat Pakistan in the T20 World Cup.

We feature interviews with Dilip G Gogari, coach of the Indian visually impaired cricket team, and with Vinod V Patel, president, CABI.

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Interview with Dilip G Gogari:

Could you tell us about the practice sessions organised by your association?

We have two hours’ practice and training session for the players in the morning. This involves exercise, warm up for the players and after that we have a practice session involving bowling, batting, fielding etc. We also have a practice session in the evening for three hours, which includes an hour for exercise and the rest for batting, bowling and fielding practice.

What is the basis for selecting players?

We invite four teams from each of the zones (east, west, south and north). Then we organise a match between those teams and 14 players are selected for a state team. We then organise a 10-15 days training session for the team before the tournament.

What is the difference between the cricket played by normal players and the visually impaired?

There is nothing special in this cricket. There are three categories – B1, B2 and B3 – depending upon the distance of vision. The players have to undergo medical checkups before the selection process.

Tell us about your experience.

I started my journey as a player from 1994 and played till 2010. After that I got selected as a secretary of the Gujarat Board and also a secretary of the west zone. I am also a member of the selection committee for the west zone apart from being the coach of the team.

What were the challenges that you faced?

We have faced many challenges, but the main was – and still is – getting sponsorship. We had a meeting with Anandiben Patel, the Gujarat chief minister and we were told that we will get all the sports facilities that are provided to the normal cricket team.

How did you manage all these years without the government’s support?

Our president Vinodbhai used to pay personally for our expenses such as for travelling, food, accommodation etc.

Do you expect a better ground and other facilities from government?

Chief minister Patel told us that the state government will support us. As international tours are expensive, we sought support from the government.

Why has the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) not yet recognised visually impaired cricket as a real sport?

It will be better for us if the BCCI supports us so we can develop our skills and represent India in a much better way.

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Interview with Vinod V Patel, president, CABI:

Who helped you financially for the world cup team?

We got some help from the Gujarat government, but the other expenses were managed by the board from Bangalore. I have been helping them majorly with the finances and even my friends do the same.

Could you share your experiences?

I was a primary teacher and in 2010 I came to know that three players got selected for a cricket tournament in England, but they did not have the basic documents or money to go there. So that was the time I got involved and along with other staff members raised Rs75,000.

The team won that series and from then I have been engaged with the association. It was later that one of my friends suggested we set up a registered cricket association. We registered the association in Valsad in Gujarat.

The T20 Blind Cricket world cup was held in 2012. Five of the Indian team players were from Gujarat and we won that series against Pakistan in the final.

I was the assistant manager of the team that went to Cape Town to play for the world cup series in 2014. We won that world cup too and after returning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited our team to his home and congratulated us for the victory.

Since you had no support from government, what were the other challenges?

In the beginning it was challenging for us. We didn’t have any contact with the national board and it took us a year to get connected. It’s quite difficult to manage everything as we have to send the players for training and tournaments to far flung areas. But now we are getting some support from the government, board and other foundations.

I want the government to support our team and look after the players by offering them jobs through sports quota or any other means. I want the government to provide the same facilities to the team, which they provide to the normal cricket team.

Do you think young girls and boys are getting interested in this sport?

Earlier, women were not ready to join the training sessions. Their parents didn’t allow them to go on long tours or training sessions. But now they are coming for the training and are showing interest in the tournaments also.

How was your experience with the women’s team?

There are only four state cricket teams of Blind women in India, which we announced and launched on women’s day. Hopefully, the Gujarat Blind Women’s team will also perform as well as the men’s team.

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