India gracious in victory as an emotional Pakistan exits
Differently-abled or visually impaired? A simple ‘hearteningly different’ would best describe the India-Pakistan final of the SBI T20 World Cup for the Blind on Thursday.
The Central College grounds witnessed some extraordinary scenes and emotions, possibly never seen in a sports arena featuring the ‘fully-abled’.
Apart from the breathtaking action on the field, the boisterous 5,000-odd spectators cheered as persons with disabilities (PWDs) in wheelchairs from the crowd zoomed across with the aid of speeding pushers, all the while waving the Indian flag. At times, the Pakistan team passionately waved their flag too, though this was met with an understanding smile from the obviously pro-India crowd. This was not the place for cynics.
Pats on the back
India did win eventually, leading to fans lighting firecrackers in the stands. But it wasn’t all partisan behaviour. When an emotional Pakistan captain Zeeshan Abbasi left the field in tears after the defeat, he arrived to sympathetic comments and pats on the back from many an Indian fan.
Actors, ex-cricketers and even a veteran Congress leader watched the proceedings, and the motives behind their presence — they wanted to lend support to blind cricket — can only be described as noble. The film industry was represented by Ragini Dwivedi, who was accompanied by the Karnataka Bulldozers, a celebrity cricket team consisting of Kannada actors.
The former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga and ex-India wicketkeeper Syed Kirmani — both know a thing or two about World Cup success — extended warm greetings to fans and cricketers assembled from the nine participating countries.
All-India Congress Committee general secretary Oscar Fernandes made an impromptu appearance as well, marvelling at the fine skill on display.
“Look at the way these guys dive to stop the ball. I know many fully-abled international cricketers who don’t display this type of commitment and passion. I am glad to be here; I am touched,” said Mr. Ranatunga.
Mr. Fernandes, far away from the exhausting world of politics, and clearly at ease here, remarked: “I have seen disabled people outperform fully-abled people in IAS exams. It is no different when I see the action here. On another note, there are also a huge number of disabled people here in the crowd, and this tournament should act as an inspiration for them.”
Dream come true
For Shekar Naik, the Indian captain, it was a dream come true. “I have never experienced such an atmosphere. We prepared our guys before the match as we expected this big a crowd. I am happy that we did not perform for the TV cameras or the crowd, like we did in our league encounter defeat to Pakistan,” he said.
The dignitaries and players made a special mention to tournament organisers Samarthanam, headed by G.K. Mahantesh. A delighted Mr. Mahantesh celebrated the success of the tournament, which was almost derailed after the recent incident involving Mr. Abbasi accidentally drinking detergent assuming it was water.
As the party gradually reduced in intensity, one final sight confirmed that victory, defeat and cricket themselves truly took a backseat to true sportsman spirit. As a forlorn Pakistan team exited the venue, Indian fans lined its team bus and waved the victory sign.
The pleasantly surprised cricketers from across the border responded with a V-sign of their own, before the waiting police force stopped traffic to safely direct the bus out of the venue.