Manish A. is the only player from Kerala to have played in the first ever T20 World Cup for the Blind held recently. The committed player had to overcome hardships to give an impressive performance

The only thing that Manish has ever loved passionately is cricket, he says. Right from his childhood, he has followed all the matches that were shown on television and has listened to every word of the commentary. He adores Sachin Tendulkar, but now it is Yuvraj Singh who inspires him. He loves watching Ricky Ponting and Shane Watson in action. It is cricket, he repeats, that “keeps him alive”.

Winning the World Cup

Manish A. is the only player from Kerala to have played in the first ever T20 World Cup for the Blind held in December 2012. India beat Pakistan by 29 runs in the final in Bangalore. “I played four matches in the series, but I am most happy that I got to bat in the finals. I hit a few sixers. The joy of winning is not easy to describe,” he says.

Manish falls into the partially-sighted category. He has no vision in his right eye and has 70 per cent vision in his left eye. Being selected to play at an international level was a huge recognition. “Manish is committed to the game and he carved out a space for himself in the team,” says Rajanish Henry, Manish’s mentor, and one of the founders of Glorious Vision, a trust formed to promote blind cricket in Kerala.

It was Manish’s impressive performance at the T20 three-match series against Pakistan in March that gave him an edge at the selection trials for the T20 World Cup for the Blind that was held in Kochi in September, says Rajanish. Glorious Vision with the help of the Kerala Cricket Association had conducted one of the two-part selection trials in Kochi. Out of four players from Kerala, Manish was selected.

Twenty-four-year-old Manish lost his vision at the age of three when a fire engulfed his house in Varkala. It was at the ‘Light to the Blind’ school that he was introduced to cricket. “I started playing when I was in Class IV and I remember, our team always used to lose,” he says. Once, his coach and teacher at school gave Rs. 50 to each player in the team and asked them to buy themselves a gift. “That incident touched me deeply. He loved us so much despite losing all the matches we played,” he says. Manish bought a ball with the money and started practising on his own. “I got a few friends to help me and from then on, cricket has always been a part of my life,” he says.

Though he had been interested in cricket since he was a child, Manish recounts that he was never included in the game by the neighbourhood boys. Manish started playing at the State level in 2001. Though a talented batsman, Rajanish feels Manish is a brilliant fielder, too.

Hard times

Life was particularly hard on Manish. He lost his father when he was three and his mother did odd jobs to bring up Manish and his three sisters. “There have been times I have gone for matches without any money on hand,” he says. He works as a mason and earns Rs. 500 as daily wages. “Whenever there are no matches, I have to go for work, to make both ends meet.” However, after his T20 win, the Government has promised a job for Manish. Cricketer S. Sreesanth has also offered help, Manish says.

“We have several talented players in Kerala, who need moulding and training. Most of the players are economically backward, too. We have a lot of cricketers offering help in their own capacities. But support from cricket associations will help a great deal in honing the skills of our players with visual impairment,” says Rajanish.

Glorious Vision conducts training in 12 blind schools in Kerala. Before the trust was formed in 2012, its founders Navas Nizar, Rajanish and T.S. Manu had formed a team in 2009, training players and sending them to tournaments outside the State, Rajanish says. The trust is now planning to form a Cricket Association for the Blind in Kerala.

Manish is still excited about the T20 win. But he dreams about playing for the T20 Blind World Cup expected to be held in South Africa in 2015. He says, “I hope by that time, there will be at least three players to represent Kerala at the international level.”

The sport

A blind cricket team has 14 players and they fall into three categories, B1—totally blind, B2—partially blind and B3—partially sighted.

B1 has four players, B2, three and B3, four a reserve for each category.

The ball used is larger than a normal cricket ball and is made of a mix of plastic and fibre. It has ball bearings inside.

Blind cricket has underarm bowling.

Three Blind World Cups (40-overs) have been held so far-New Delhi, India (1998); Chennai, India (2002) and Islamabad, Pakistan (2006).