Over the years, women's participation in sports has seen an unprecedented rise. In India, young girls are inspired to take up the desired sport, excel in it and get the opportunity to make the country. This holds for popular sports such as cricket. In recent years, commonly known as the 'Gentlemen's Game' has seen several women breaking the glass ceiling.
Stalwarts like Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, Shefali Verma, Pooja Vastrakar and Smriti Mandhana etc., are an inspiration for cricket-loving girls around the country and gave them a reason to dream.
While we are aware of the Indian Women Cricket Team's successful run over time, the Blind Women's Cricket is gaining momentum in India. Several states have formed their teams with the help of concerned organisations and governments, giving a platform to visually-impaired girls who are passionate about the sport.
First Blind Women's Team In Madhya Pradesh
For Madhya Pradesh, its first blind women's cricket team came to fruition in 2021. The idea existed in theory for many years, but it was executed only recently by surpassing a myriad of hurdles. The team's coach, Sonu Golkar, played a pivotal role in making it happen. A veteran blind cricketer, he has represented India at the Asia Cup in 2016, where they lifted the trophy.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Golkar talks about the women team's journey. He says, "We have wanted to make such a team for quite some time. However, it was not easy to do so due to the lack of resources, and this hurdle made it impossible for us to create the women's team earlier."
In 2019, Madhya Pradesh could not send a team to represent the state on the national level. This thought pushed them to form the first blind women's cricket team. Come November 2021 and Golkar held trials for visually impaired girls in Bhopal. "A total of 160 girls took part in it that, in itself, is a massive achievement for us. Looking at their enthusiasm, I realised that if we have the right resources, we can take this team to greater heights in the right direction," he adds.
Tweaking Conventional Techniques For Blind Cricket
When it comes to Blind Cricket, certain modifications are applied to make it easier for visually-impaired players. Sound plays a significant role in the game. An important distinction is in the bowling technique, as Blind Cricket uses underarm bowling rather than the conventional forearm method. The ball rolling on the pitch emits the sound beneficial for the blind player batting on the crease.
Another distinctive feature is the metallic stumps used by the players in match. This helps completely blind players to touch the stumps with the help of sound and execute run-outs, which is an integral part of the sport.
The blind cricket dynamics also include specific jargon that divides the players into three distinct categories. Sonu Golkar explains, "There are three categories in this type of Cricket- B1, B2 and B3. B1 consists of players who are completely blind, B2 are players who are partially sighted with visibility up to 6m, and B3 players have visibility up to 3m. The team's composition is four B1 players, three B2 players and four B3 players."
Battling Adversities For The Love Of Cricket
For the blind girls, it has been a difficult road to pursue their love for the game. The members of the Madhya Pradesh team come from different walks of life and the state's remote areas. Combined with poverty, their disability has held them back often from playing the sport. "The girls' families were concerned about their well-being as they would be stepping out of their homes for the first time," Golkar continues his conversation.
However, the girls' enthusiasm to join the team convinced their loved ones for the long run. A Gwalior-based girl named Sapna talks about her experience as a batter and fielder in the MP team. Initially, her parents were extremely hesitant, but seeing their daughter's desire to play cricket quickly evaporated.
Not only that, the young team juggles their education with the sport. Sapna explains to The Logical Indian, "The team lives together in a hostel in Bhopal. Our training starts at 7:30 in the morning, where we do our warm-up exercises, followed by breakfast. We start playing a match during which we take a lunch break. From 2 pm to 4 pm, we play the second innings. In the end, we do the cooldown routine. We go back to the hostel after the training, have dinner at eight and then go to sleep."
Golkar and the girls' team are chasing a common dream to play for India in the future. With this endeavour, he aims to give the visually-impaired girls a suitable platform to pursue their dreams of playing cricket and do so on a national level by representing the country.