Cricket in India is treated as a national game. People have sentiments attached to every game that is played and media takes the game to the next level by praising the player/s or team after a win and not leaving a single chance to criticize the team or player/s after a loss. And when it comes to India vs Pakistan match, we all treat it as WAR that we have to win anyhow.
I got an opportunity to witness such encounter last year in January, 2018. Yes, it was an India vs Pakistan match, that to a World Cup final and surprisingly not many were aware of that match. It was a Blind Cricket World Cup Final Match which was going to be played at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. (Actually the final was going to be played in Pakistan, but I heard due to some visa issues it was shifted to Sharjah.)
As soon as I came to know about the final I looked for the tickets but I could not find any link to buy the tickets. Then while going through twitter I came across Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) twitter handle and to my surprise the said that the match was FREE of cost. (Ind vs Pak match, that too FREE what more you can expect). As it was a free entry I was expecting too much crowd from both the countries those will come to support their individual team. I went there at the time of toss and I was surprised to see the entire ground empty. Hardly 10-15 supporters of each team.
I was lucky to get an entry on the ground to see both the team and take lots of pictures from the boundary line. (Few people even thought that i was from some Indian newspaper) But when I saw the team interacting and practicing I felt like saluting the teams for their spirit. No one can tell looking at them that these are blind player (There are 3 different categories of player B1 – Complete blind – 4 players in the team, B2 – Partially blind – 3 players in the team & B3 – Partially sighted – 4 players in the team. More info)
It was an experience to see players commitments while in all their categories. As the match progressed I could see around 40-50 supporters from each team. But the best thing was people were also applauding at the opponents efforts and encouraging them. Like other Ind-Pak matches this match was also a nail-biting match. Batting first Pakistan team had scored 308/8 in 40 overs. Pakistan team was on the top of the match for almost 30 overs but in last 6 overs the match turned in India’s favor and Indian team won the match by 2 wickets and 10 balls to spare. Final score (Pak 308/8 in 40 0vers, India 309/8 in 38.2 Over)
It was an unbelievable scene on the ground everyone running towards the center to celebrate the win. The players, as well as the audience, were so overjoyed by the success that they ran a victory lap around the ground with the team. The captain of team India Ajay Reddy dedicated this win to the Armed forces. India’s total of 563/4 in 40 overs against Australia is the highest team total scored by any team in Blind Cricket World Cup.
I spoke to some of the supporting staffs who were with the team throughout the tournament. From them i learned that BCCI & ICC does not support blind cricket and the cricketers. The funds that they get from the government is also very less. He said at state levels also they find difficulties in raising the funds as not many come forward to sponsor the team/matches. It’s actually very sad to know that the biggest cricketing country does not support and motivate the players who are an inspiration to others. I seriously appreciate IndusInd Bank and other local sponsors for supporting the Blind Cricket.
The prize money the international cricketer get and the blind cricketer get cannot be compared at all, not even close to what they get. Man of the world cup got 1500 AED (Approx. INR 25970, Most Valuable Player of the Match got AED 300 (Approx. INR 5195), Man of the Match got AED 500 (Approx. INR 8660), Runner-up team got AED 7500 (Approx. INR 129840) and the Winner team got AED 15000 (Approx. INR 259680) as prize money. (That time 1AED = INR 17.31)
This is the second world cup win for India, in 2014 also they defeated Pakistan to win for the title. Indian team has recorded a win in both the T20 World Cup both times defeating Pakistan in the final. The team has constantly shown their ability and have proved them as a tough contender in International Blind Cricket.
Blind cricket should also be treated as one of the para-sport and should be supported the same way other disable sported / para-sports are supported around the world. The focus is always towards the men’s cricket team only. They only get the major media attraction and the hype as well. Women’s cricket team gets a very little share of it, but the Blind Cricket team who have also won 2 World Cup for India are far from the media & BCCI attention, may because they are not into a money making business yet. At the end of the day, these players are also playing for the nation and have made us proud and its time that we support them in coming future.