In this world, no one is low and no one is high in the talent. Everyone is gifted with some unique skill to prove themselves in the career. The real challenge lies in knowing their skills to polish it. Some people were born with disabilities and some will get disability due to some freaky accidents. With determination and self-motivation anything can be overcome by a person. Even though cricket is another overrated foreign product, which has been infused into Indian blood, it is still loved by most of the people. In any field, giving an opportunity for disabled people makes them confident to live. Squadron Leader Abhai Pratab Singh, 38, was paralyzed waist-down after a road accident in 2009, he was confined to a hospital for two years.
“From flying a Mig-27 to being in a wheelchair; it was a difficult journey. But now, with Wheelchair Cricket India, we have a chance to explore the world once again,” said Abhai, vice-captain of the Indian wheelchair cricket team, which left for Dhaka on its first international trip on Thursday.
The team will play against Bangladesh in a bilateral series from May 4-8. International para-athlete and national awardee Pradeep Raj founded Wheelchair Cricket India (WCI) in 2011 which has 16 state teams after a visit to Korea where he met wheelchair cricket delegations from Bangladesh and Pakistan.
“When Paralympics was started, no one in India knew about athletes with disabilities. It’s the same case with wheelchair cricket.”
The association has written to the sports ministry and BCCI several times to provide infrastructure support but to no avail.
“The only person who wrote back was Sachin Tendulkar, who had words of encouragement for the team,”
The association’s consistent efforts have also led to the formation of the Asian Wheelchair Cricket Council (AWCC), with Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan, and India as its members. On November 4, 2017, the first meeting of the AWCC was held at Brahmanbaria in Bangladesh, where it was decided that India would host the first Wheelchair Cricket Asia Cup in October 2018.
WCI vice-president and DPS Rohtak principal Hector Ravinder Dutt said that the Indian team has 14 players from across India, including states like Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Maharashtra, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
“The national team was selected at a three-day camp at DPS Rohtak held from March 23-25. We zeroed in on exceptional talents with the help of Ranji trophy player and WCI coach Ankush Attry, who has been associated with us for the last two years,” said Dutt.
The national team captain, Somjeet Singh, is a 21-year-old from Lucknow, who started playing cricket three years ago for rehabilitation purposes. Somjeet, who was born with a spinal tumor, has always used a wheelchair to facilitate his movement. But it was only after he was introduced to WCI that he started working on the game not just as therapy but as a means to building his confidence.
“I used to suffer from social anxiety because I thought people always underestimate wheelchair users. Cricket has helped me get rid of those inhibitions and become a different person,” said Somjeet, an allrounder, who dreams of unfurling the National Flag at Dhaka. “I am confident that we will win this series,” he added.
Except for the ball that is a few ounces lighter, the rules of the game are similar to the ones in international cricket.
“Players need wheelchairs customized according to their height and build to facilitate maneuverability. The game requires immense dedication and players need to work on building their upper body strength through a series of exercises and therapy. For example, when players run between the creases, they need to leave behind the bat since they use both hands to power the wheelchair and complete a run,” said Coach Attry.
The players said that they feel truly alive while playing the game.
“In cricket, players can strike the ball on the front or back foot. We have no feet but we still manage to hit sixes. I am sure as we go ahead, we will get more recognition, and more differently-abled will come out of their houses to make India truly accessible,” said Abhai.
It’s truly a great appreciation and more like uplifting disabled people to instill confidence and it will be good if the same is given to other sports. What do you say? Share us in the comments. If you are interested in cricket and cricketers, check out these cricketers who tried their hand in movies but didn’t really make it.