KOCHI: The first visually-challenged women’s team from the state is preparing for the national T20 cricket tournament which will be held from December 16 to 19 in New Delhi. The tournament, the first in the country for visually-challenged women, will see them face off against Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Delhi.
As part of the preparations, the team had recently played against Karnataka in a three-match series. Playing a cricket match was a rewarding experience for the players considering the fact that many of them didn’t have prior exposure to sports, let alone cricket. “Our interest in the game progressed. We were sad to lose the second match despite giving it our best. That made us realise how attached we have become to the sport,” said Jomol K, team vice-captain.
Training camps were organised by the Cricket Association for the Blind in Kerala (CABK) from May. “Stretching exercises, fielding and batting drills to improve their game was practised during the sessions,’’ said Rajneesh Henry, general secretary of CABK. The training session led by coach Vidya Vijayakumar is held every weekend at the School for the Blind in Aluva.
Cricket is more than just a game for some players in the team. Ranjini K R, the wicketkeeper of the team and one of its senior-most members, had to sacrifice her job as a sales agent at a reputed clothing showroom to play for the team. “I was unable to attend the camps due to my work timings. Also, my employers were unwilling to agree to a long leave. So I’m looking for a new job where I can manage both,” she said.
Not an easy task
Only six people had shown up at the first training camp in May. “We knew that if we could get five players more, we could change the picture. Several joined later. Nine camps have been held until now,” said Rajneesh. Shortage of funds is another worry for the organisers who are required to provide travel allowance to the players and their caretakers from financially poor backgrounds. The players are required to be flown to New Delhi for participating in the tournament. “UST Global gave us Rs 3 lakh. But we still need Rs 2-3 lakh more for proper accommodation and food for the team,” he said.
Cricket would have a positive impact on their lives by improving their confidence, energy levels and health, the organisers said. “Visually-challenged girls have the right to lead a normal life like others. We have to cultivate a space for them to do so,” said Rajneesh who has big ambitions for the women’s cricket team.
Developing a training centre for visually-challenged women is also being considered. “Training for managing daily affairs, martial arts skills, spoken English and computer classes can be held to help them,’’ said Rajneesh. Creating employment for players is another area that CABK looks to address. The organisation hopes to use cricket as a platform to empower the lives of the visually-challenged. “We have got positive responses from the BCCI so far. If they come forward to support us, the lives of the visually-challenged players will be transformed,” he said.