The Other Men In Blue Every Cricket-Crazy Indian Must Cheer For!

Posted by Sangeetha Bhaskaran in Disability Rights, Sports
February 8, 2017

Can you picture a scenario where ‘the blind lead the blind’ and emerge victorious? I bet you can’t as this phrase has oft been used in a negative light. However, this is exactly what happens in blind cricket, a sport that has a large following around the world, and is played by a team that has come to be known as the #OtherMenInBlue in India!

India's Blind Cricket Team With Prime Minister Narendra Modi
India’s Blind Cricket Team With Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Managed by the Cricket Association for the Blind (CABI), a non-profit affiliated with the World Blind Cricket Ltd, the initiative promotes the sport both as a “rightful pursuit” and a “platform for physical and social development” of cricket players with a visual impairment. In fact, India is currently hosting the World Cup T-20 for Blind Cricket, a two-week tournament that concludes with the finals played at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on February 12.

One of our favourite cricketers Rahul Dravid is the brand ambassador for the tournament.

Captain Ajay Kumar Reddy with a team member
Captain Ajay Kumar Reddy with a team member

Know Your Team

India’s #OtherMenInBlue comprise 17 players unified by a passion for the game that they’ve harboured since childhood. Motivated by witnessing their seniors play in blind school and teachers who recognised their talent and persistence, they have worked hard towards their dream.

Team India won the T20 World Cup in 2012 in Bangalore.
They are the only blind cricket team to win all three championships – T20, ODI and Asian championship.
They are at World No 1 and the defending champions of the tournament.

Captain Ajay Kumar Reddy, 26, a B2 player, has won over 50 ‘Man of the Series’ awards and several ‘Man of the Match’ titles. Golu Kumar from Ranchi, at 16 years, is the youngest member of the team. Golu’s first international tournament was in 2014 against Australia, and he has already won 2 ‘Man of the Series’ and a few ‘Man of the Match’ titles!

On the other hand we have veteran player Prakasha Jayaramaiah who has received not 20, 40 0r 60 but 88 ‘Man of the Match’ awards during South Zone, National and International Tournaments.

But first things first. You might be wondering what it takes to bowl, bat and field with limited or no eye sight? Well, these are some unique rules of the game:

  • The ball made of fibre moulded plastic is filled with bearings to enable audibility.
  • When the bowler releases the ball, he must shout ‘Play’.
  • The wicket-keeper is then allowed to guide the fielders on the direction of the ball with verbal instructions.
  • All players are classified into B1 (total or almost total blindness), B3 (partial sight) and B2 (falls in-between ie partially blind). Every team must have four B1, three B2 and four B3 players.
  • The team follows a “buddy system”. Since most players practice regionally and come together at coaching camps only before international matches, each player is partnered with a ‘buddy’ whom they need to hang with at all times, when not on the grounds. This practice brings in a kind of camaraderie through self-sufficiency, by mixing all three category members to ensure that each pair has one person with a slightly better vision, who can serve as a guide to his buddy.

Other than that it’s the same energy, excitement, and resilience needed by the players to play a great match!

In the video snippet below, get a glimpse of Pakistan vs New Zealand. India’s arch rival won by 9 wickets!

Shares Mahantesh GK, President of CABI,” The players have to train much harder to overcome their disability but you will rarely hear them complain. Their strengths are in their listening and communication skills and memory power.” He also informs that they are currently funded through corporate sponsorships and are especially grateful to IndusInd Bank, for their commitment to support the team with infrastructure, team training and logistics. “However, we are yet to gain recognition from BCCI and expand the team’s access to better resources. This is the next step for us,” he adds.

How Is Team India Performing?

Having defeated New Zealand by nine wickets at Bhubaneshwar and securing a place in the semi-finals, Team India is moving forward in strong form. They have won seven of the eight matches played, losing only to Pakistan. On February 8, Team India beat Team Nepal by 152 runs!

Although as a nation we have a long way to go towards enabling individuals with disabilities to live full lives, supporting this game is a massive step. There are several ways you can support these inspiring men who have refused to let fate deprive them of reaping the joy of a competitive sport.

You can follow the action at CABI’s Facebook page, and keep abreast of matches and other events that raise awareness towards blind cricket. Being based in Bengaluru, I am myself, am looking forward to watching the finals on February 12.

May the best team win!

If you would like to watch the finals in Bengaluru, write to reserve your place. Every action counts in helping us #CheerForIndia, and what better way than with your presence at the finals?!