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Playing blind cricket – and winning

By M.R. Narayan Swamy, IANS,

New Delhi : At age 17, Ranthu Munda is an all-rounder in cricket whose best showing has been 50 not out and 4 wickets for 30 runs. And he feels he can be as good a player as anyone else – although he has zero vision.

The young tribal from Jharkhand was a member of the Institution for the Blind (Lajpat Nagar) team that won the Eyeway Blind Cricket Challenger Tournament here Sunday, defeating the JPM Senior Secondary School, widely known as the Blind School (Lodi Road), by eight wickets.

The diminutive Munda was thrilled after bagging a prize for claiming four wickets in the 20-over match.

Having lost vision when he was young due to an eye infection, Munda began playing cricket shortly after joining a school in Ranchi. In 2006, he shifted to Delhi and embraced cricket like any other Indian.

“Being blind is no handicap for playing cricket,” the cheerful Munda told IANS after the match. “I have no difficulty playing. Cricket gives me real pleasure. What other people can do, we too can do.”

Three categories of blind people played cricket Sunday. The totally blind, like Munda; the partially blind or those who can see only up to two feet when others can see up to 60 feet; and those who cannot see beyond six feet, who are called partially sighted.

Munda, who is also a long jumper, needs only one help — he needs someone to run between the wickets when he is batting.

The runner, Raj Kumar Sharma, who is partially sighted, is full of praise for Munda.

“He is full of energy,” Sharma said. “When you see people like Munda, you feel there is no challenge in life the blind cannot overcome.”

George Abraham, the founder of Eyeway, an information portal for the blind, agrees.

Abraham, who himself suffers from very poor vision, said there was tremendous following among the blind for cricket and a keen desire to play the game.

“There are situations when things look impossible,” Abraham told IANS. “But if you have a passion to achieve something, you can very much succeed. This is the message blind cricket gives to the world.”

In blind cricket, which has an estimated 4,500 players across India and is also played internationally, the ball is white in colour with ball bearings inside so as to make a sound when it travels.

The size of the ground is relatively smaller. The three wickets on either side are made of metal and in one piece with the bails attached to them. However, the bat is like any other.

“It is only when the ball is in the air that all players go blank,” explained chartered accountant D. Ranganathan, who has been associated with blind cricket for decades.

Both Abraham and Ranganathan, who together in 1996 formed the Association for Cricket for the Blind in India (ACBI), moaned the lack of adequate support for the sport.

“It is a totally passion driven game,” Ranganathan said. “We get no support from the government or BCCI or corporate India barring exceptions.”

“It is a real task to get sponsorship for every tournament. Everyone looks at the publicity angle,” he said.

Added Abraham: “Blind cricket is seen as charity. The blind are seen to be the lower echelons of society. They are seen as people who need to be provided for, who cannot contribute. It is sad because the truth is the opposite.”

(M.R. Narayan Swamy can be contacted at [email protected])