Special cricket, special team...

All geared up for the World Cup Cricket for the Blind this December. Photo: S. Subramanium.

All geared up for the World Cup Cricket for the Blind this December. Photo: S. Subramanium.  

Cricket is turning a blind spot. The game is finding a new home with the visually challenged players. And now there is the World Cup to coincide with the World Disability Day. RANA A. SIDDIQUI reports on the event that has everything going for it on the human scale... .

SACHIN TENDULKAR, Virender Sehwag and mates can go take a walk. We can do without their famed strokes. Now is the time for a sweet jingle in cricket. Time for cricket for the visually challenged where balls makes a little noise, the bowler announces before delivering and where the winner takes home a computer. There could be no better tribute to the disabled, specially visually impaired than having World Cup Cricket for the Blind. Beginning December 3 at Chennai, the event coincides with the World Disability Day falling on the same day.

The tournament is taking place four years after the first World Cup Cricket for the Blind in 1998 in New Delhi, in which the host had lost in the semi finals and South Africa reigned supreme by defeating Pakistan in the finals. World Cup is being organised by the Association for the Cricket for the Blind, ACBI. A tussle between five nations: Australia, England Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India, the match would be a played on league-cum-knock basis, for 40 overs a side. Semi-final will be played on December 12. While Hongkong and Shanghai Bank -- HSBC -- is the sponsor of the event, dedicated to the late Madhavrao Scindhia, the patron of ACBI, the prime motivator behind it all is George Abraham, the founder of the organisation, launched formally in 1996.

Wonder how the game will be played? Well, the rules of the game are all the same as regular cricket barring a few modifications. This game is played with a white ball made of plastic and filled with tiny ball bearings that rattle when the ball moves. The bowler gives an audio signal to the batsman before throwing the ball -- bowling in under arm here. The batsman returns the call. A 17-member team with six stand-bys, the game has three categories, B1, B2 and B3, partially, totally blind and partially sighted players in the ratio of 4: 4 : 4.

Though because of lack of proper sponsorship, the game has no much reward as regular cricket. Here, Rs. 1000 is awarded to Man of the Match, 10,000 to Man of the Series and 1,00,000 to the winning team in all. The team gets lodging, conveyance and food facility where they play.

However, the World Cup winner will be awarded with JAWS, a talking computer software designed specially for the visually impaired and also a verbal digital diary. The best player will get a portable Braille computer, PAC Mate BNS— the latest innovation.

If you ask players, they have their own apprehensions though their aspiration level is high enough. "From our side, the game is going to be highly unpredictable. The fact is we have had no exposure to international teams that are playing, as they never visited India in these four years," says Rajesh Singh, a player. "India has only four coaches to teach visually impaired cricketers. Other coaches hardly know the nuances of teaching them. Yet our players are highly motivated, " informs Abraham.

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