CHENNAI: Karuppu Ramesh is a cricket world cup winner. But the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) doesn’t recognise him as such, because he is blind. Ramesh, the sole representative from Tamil Nadu, and the other members of the Indian blind cricket team overcame arch-rivals Pakistan at the equivalent showpiece event held at Cape Town in South Africa on December 7, 2014, overhauling a target of 391 in 40 overs. Ramesh was awarded the best fielder award. Arriving to a hero’s welcome at the Chennai Airport on Sunday, Ramesh was clear about what could be done by the BCCI as he told City Express of the hardships that the team had to scale enroute to the pinnacle of sporting glory.
“The least that the BCCI, which is the richest cricketing body in the world, could do is to recognise our achievements and help the sport prosper by offering us infrastructure to train and fund our travels,” he said.
“As it is, we are not paid to play cricket. But, in other countries, it is the parent cricket body which takes care of the expenses of their blind cricketers,” he added. Three categories of blind players make up the Indian playing XI. Four B1 category players – who are totally blind, three B2 category players – who are partially blind and four B3 category players – who have partial vision. Ramesh falls under B3.
“The Sports Ministry helped us travel to South Africa. But, this was also the first time that we received cash incentives for our achievement,” said Ramesh, referring to the `7 lakh cash award announced by the Central Government to each of the players. Ramesh draws a monthly salary of `6000 working as a casual labourer with the Government Braille Press in Chennai. Having lost his father at an early age, it was his passion for the game that made him persist with the sport despite the financial strain that he and his mother and three siblings were put through. V Mahendran, a former blind cricketer himself, was Ramesh’s coach.
“The differently-abled in India are no less than the others in terms of sporting talent. If patronage was to come from respective state governments as well as the Centre, then we can harness the skills from this large talent pool. If that happens, then there will be more than one Ramesh, representing Tamil Nadu and making India proud,” said Mahendran, who currently teaches 126 aspiring blind cricketers.
The cricketers represent the nation under the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI), a sporting arm of an NGO based in Bengaluru, which has been recognised by the World Blind Cricket Council.