Captain Shekhar Naik wants to break the losing streak in Pakistan but even in the second T- 20 match on Sunday, the Indian team's luck did not hold. Pakistan scored the target of 208 runs set by India, winning by nine wickets.
Bangalore based Naik, a player since 2002, and his visually impaired team will not enjoy the undying adulation that spoil India's cricketers but he has been visiting Pakistan since 2004 to play matches and quite likes it. He told The Hindu over phone from Faisalabad where the team played on Sunday, that this was his fourth visit to Pakistan and the teams had enjoyed good bilateral visits in the past. "We have not yet notched a win here and similarly the Pakistan team has also not beaten us in India," he says. An all rounder, all he wants is a chance to play some good cricket.
"It is really a very good experience for all of us and everyone is most encouraging here. The arrangements are also amazing and we all feel at home," he adds. While cricketing ties between the India and Pakistan are strained, the visually impaired team is here after an invitation from the Pakistan Blind Cricket Council (PBCC).
The PBCC invited the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) affiliated to the World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC), to participate in the Indo-Pak Bilateral Series of three T-20 and three one day international matches in Pakistan. The first match was on February 15 in Lahore and second one today. The remaining fixtures will be played in Faisalabad and Karachi till February 23.
While most countries hesitate to play in Pakistan, Naik and his team are quite happy to be here and don't feel in the least threatened.
"They give us good security with over 400 security personnel at the stadium and we have escort vehicles like politicians," he says.
John David, manager of the 15- member team, on his third visit here, says that the series first began in 2004 and there have been regular exchanges since then including for the World Cup. There are modest crowds for the matches and the teams are content with that. "The ball that is used is a hard plastic ball with ball bearings inside so the players can hear it coming, and too much shouting can be noisy and distracting," Mr. David points out.
The series aims at strengthening cricket ties for the visually impaired. This is the fourth official trip of the Indian team to Pakistan since 2004. India has also hosted Pakistan in New Delhi in 2005, Chennai in 2012 and Bangalore, 2012. The Bangalore event also marked the first ever T-20 World Cup where India emerged as World Cup Champions.