The Karnataka team recently won five straight matches to qualify for the quarter finals of Ranji Trophy. Given their current form, they’re considered one of the favourites to win the trophy. Another cricket team, of a different kind, heads to Mumbai later this month to take part in another inter-state tournament. But chances are you haven’t heard of them.
The Karnataka Disabled Cricket Team is just a year old; it was formed in March, 2013. The team has played three matches so far and is preparing to take part in an inter-state match in Mumbai. City Express caught up with the team’s captain, Vijaykant Tiwari.
On the crease
“We’ve played only two series and in the last series, we finished fourth in an eight-team tournament. Before that, we played a three-day game with Himachal which was drawn, a Twenty20 which we won and a one-day game which they won,” says Tiwari, who also plays for the Indian disability team. Now the team is heading to Borivali where teams from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka will be coming to participate. Next is an international match against South Africa in May.
Sharing his hopes for 2014, Tiwari says, “We are hoping to win as many matches as possible. First, there is the Karnataka series and in March, we are hosting a match, where Maharashtra and Himachal will also play a few one-day games. Then, in April, there are some domestic matches in Faridabad and Gurgaon. Next comes the international tour where England, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and India will play. There’s a West Indies team being put together too,” informs Tiwari.
On a swing
Cricket has been a childhood passion for Tiwari. “I used to play during my school days, but then I met with an accident. I moved to Bangalore when my father, who is in the army, got posted here. I started studying at KVSE where Manish (Pandey) was studying, he was my classmate. After I watched him play, I found my interest in cricket once again. Then I discovered about disability cricket,” he says.
He tried the format and played for one year. He played in the North Zone with many different teams and finally got selected for the India team. “The Karnataka team was there as well, but they were playing with a soft ball, not leather. So we formed a leather ball team, as the ICC rule states that cricket has to be played with a leather ball,” informs Tiwari, who was part of the India cricket team that went to Pakistan and played three one-day matches and a 20-20 match, winning the tournament.
According to Tiwari, to take part in disability cricket, up to 40 per cent disability and upwards is mandatory. “Everyone in the team is orthopaedically challenged. There’s another blind team as well as separate teams for the deaf and the dumb,” says Tiwari, who is an off-spinner and a right-hand middle order batsman.
The team is now facing a lot of challenges concerning administration and funding. “We’re running short of funds. We don’t have any sponsors. Earlier, we invested from our own pockets. Now, some people are helping us with tickets, food and so on. We have Peter sir, who coaches for free,” he says.
The team practises on Sundays since some of the teammates work. “Some are very poor and they don’t have enough to survive. Shivkumar plays really well, but gets `1,500 per month. That’s it. I hope someone comes around to support the team - we play really well, but we need other things as well. Otherwise, we will not be able to concentrate on playing,” he says.
The team does not have a ground to call its own either. The Viveknagar ground they are currently practising at is provided by a local cricket club. “This place isn’t enough, we can only practise in the nets here. That’s a major drawback. We are not able to win matches, there is not much space for fielding drills,” he says.
The team is currently looking for funding for their Maharashtra trip. “We are supposed to leave on January 24. Since we went to Himachal in November, our accounts are in the negative. Funding is the main issue. Our tickets haven’t been booked yet,” he says.
More of south
Tiwari is the only cricketer representing India from the Karnataka team and from the entire South Zone. The rest are from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. When asked on the low numbers from the South, he says, “Cricketers need to perform to get selected. Some southern players seem promising now.”
Tiwari draws the stark contrast between the national and state teams for disability cricket. “In the India team, we get everything. We practise whenever there is a match and we go for camps. In countries like South Africa, Pakistan and Australia, their cricket board provides for everything. But in India, BCCI doesn’t support us. There is another body called PCCI - Physically Challenged Cricket Association of India. They support only the India team, the blind teams. People like Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev have coached us on certain occasions. It’s been a learning experience definitely,” says the young captain.