BHUMIKA SARASWATI | 5 SEPTEMBER, 2019
How India Won the First Physical Disability World Cricket Series
‘I understood the real meaning of playing cricket for the country’
Held last month in Worcester, England, the inaugural Physical Disability World Cricket Series saw India defeat England by 36 runs in the final to lift the championship trophy.
This T20 tournament, saw the participation of five countries in its maiden year: England, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
“Our team won all the matches of the tournament, including the finals,” says Vikrant Keni, captain of the Indian team. “Representing India at the World Cup was like a dream come true,” continues the 33 year old batsman and left-arm spinner.
Keni, who hails from Mumbai, suffers from ERSB palsy, which is a type of paralysis in the arm.
Physical disability cricket is played according to the same ICC rules that govern able-bodied cricketers. “The tournament has only one additional rule: only persons with 40% or more physical deformity can participate,” says Ravi Chauhan, secretary-general of the All India Cricket Association for the Physically Challenged.
It was last December that the BCCI received a letter from the England and Wales Cricket Board: an invitation to the first World Cup for the physically disabled. It was then that the BCCI reached out to the AICAPC, an umbrella organisation founded in 1981 by former cricketer Ajit Wadekar, who died in August last.
Soon after, the selection process for the team began.
“In the last week of March, a total of 20 players were shortlisted from across the country after playing multiple qualifying matches,” says Ramesh Subrahmaniyam Naidu, a 24 year old player from Visakhapatnam.
Currently a final year student of electrical engineering at IIT Madras, Naidu, who has a congenital absence of fingers and toes, expresses how “it was only after being selected here that I understood the real meaning of playing cricket for the country.”
Being coached by professionals like Sulakshan Kulkarni helped players like Naidu “on the field of course, but also off-field.”
Naidu is hopeful for the future of physical disability cricket, and looks forward to pursuing the sport full time.
However, the AICAPC only received permission from the BCCI to play the World Cup on an ad hoc basis only. The organisation had to self-finance the tour without any financial help from the BCCI. According to Chauhan, supporters like Anil Joglekar of C.S.Infocomm helped fund the tour.
Nor did the BCCI reach out to the team after they returned, they claim. Chauhan has meanwhile written to the Board, seeking a formal assurance for the future of its physically disabled cricket wing.
The BCCI constitution commits it to promoting cricket among people with disabilities.
According to Syed Saba Karim, general manager of cricket operations at the BCCI, “We are looking forward to constructing a committee for physically disabled cricket.” BCCI general elections are due in October, and “decisions pertaining to this matter will be taken post the elections.”