Cricket

Presenting the Cricket World Cup for street-connected children

From the streets of Chennai to playing at Lord’s, these young players will represent India at the first Cricket World Cup for street-connected children

Seventeen-year-old Paulraj B is wiping sweat off his face. He has to focus on the next moment... for, he has just been beaten by some incisive swing bowling. The bowler — a burly Englishman — runs in fast and delivers the ball. All eyes are on Paulraj as he steps out of the crease to meet the ball. The connection is sweet, and the ball gallops towards the midwicket region. The umpire signals four.

The Englishman, a staff member of the British Deputy High Commission, takes a few steps towards Paulraj, and you expect a face-off of sorts. But they just exchange smiles. Paulraj isn’t used to conversing fluently in English; he prefers his bat to do the talking. He does that here in the lush lawns of British Deputy High Commission’s Cottingley, where his ‘Reds’ team takes on the ‘Blues’ in a friendly match, and he hopes to do that again in the UK, where he’s headed in a week’s time.

He’s a key player in the team India (South), which will be represented by two organisations: Karunalayala Social Service Society and Magic Bus. He’s part of an eight-member team, comprising four boys and four girls, who will all head abroad for the first time in their lives to play in The Street Child Cricket World Cup, which will take place ahead of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.

Pitch it up
  • The first Cricket World Cup for street-connected children will take place in May, ahead of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales. It hopes to unite players from across the world and raise awareness and tackle the widespread stigma they face.
  • Ten teams are participating in this tournament. India is fielding two teams — one from the North and the other from the South.
  • The finals will take place on May 7 at the prestigious Lord’s Cricket Ground.

A huge opportunity

Paulraj has been interested in cricket since he was nine. “My brothers used to play under-arm cricket. I tried batting then, but I couldn’t. Then, whenever they used to go around the city grounds to play matches, I would accompany them, carrying their bats along,” he says, even as he watches his teammates sweat it out in the field.

A couple of years later, he became a substitute. He then progressed to become a player — he was a middle-order batsman who could bowl a bit as well. Today, he practises cricket the very old-fashioned way; he ties the ball to a rope and practises his shots for three hours every day. “I have to perform well,” says the young Dhoni fan earnestly, “This is a huge opportunity.”

Having a ball

His teammate Monisha B aka Bhavani is also taking this tournament very seriously. She’d like to go out and see a bit of London. “This is my first time travelling in a flight and I’m very excited,” she says. But she is more determined to make a mark with the ball. “I’ve been practising my run-up and fast deliveries in the last few weeks.”

Growing up in Pilliyar Koil Street off Walltax Road, her Sunday evenings were filled with ‘betting matches’ that the boys of the neighbourhood would indulge in. “I couldn’t even lift a bat back then,” she reminisces, “The boys wouldn’t let me near the playing area, so I would roll a bunch of waste papers into a ball or use a coconut shell to play.”

That was the time when the members of Karunalayala were working with children of the area and once, when they chanced upon Monisha bowling a fast one, they knew she had some serious cricketing talent. Today, many practise sessions later, she is one of the key pacers in the line-up. “Do you know, we’ll mostly be playing at Lords,” she says excitedly, “It is such a historic ground, where this year’s World Cup will be played. How many people will get a chance to bowl there?”

It’s a big opportunity — probably the biggest of their lives — and former cricketer L Sivaramakrishnan joins many enthusiasts in wishing them luck in their UK endeavour. “Cricket brings out the character in you. Play a game of cricket every day, and you’ll learn a little more about life,” he advised them post their match at Cottingley, which they won quite easily.

When the boys and girls get to London in a couple of weeks time, they will hope to do exactly that — learn a little more about life, by playing cricket.

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 9:52:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/presenting-the-cricket-world-cup-for-street-connected-children/article26981221.ece

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