Hosts India defeated Pakistan to win the inaugural T20 World Cup for visually-impaired cricketers at Bangalore on December 13. The 12 day tournament consisted of ten teams, and finally it was India who took the title, beating Pakistan by 29 runs in the final.
While India definitely played better cricket throughout the tournament to deservedly lift the title (so did Pakistan, who were unbeaten till the final), there is absolutely no doubt about the fact that each and every player taking part in the tournament came out a winner in his own right.
The tournament, known as the ‘T20 World Cup for the Blind’, gave an amazing display of cricket by these spirited men. According to the rules, the players are classified into three categories – B1 (full visual impairment), B2 (partial visual impairment) and B3 (partial vision). Each sight category is subject to different rules and compensations in order to make the playing field as level as possible. The individual scores of the B1 players are doubled – thus explaining the big scores amassed in the tournament, compared to regular Twenty20 standards.
In terms of playing equipment, the major adaptation is the cricket ball, which is significantly larger than a standard cricket ball and filled with ball bearings. The size allows partially sighted players to see the ball and the contents allow blind players to hear it. The wicket (stumps) is also larger, to allow partially sighted players to see and blind players to touch it in order to correctly orient themselves when batting or bowling.Verbal signals are widely used both by umpires and players: in particular, the bowler must shout ‘Play!’ as he releases the ball. The delivery is required to pitch at least twice when bowled to a completely blind batsman (once when bowled to a partially sighted batsman), but must not be rolling. Totally blind batsmen cannot be out stumped, and must be found to be LBW twice before going out. Totally blind fielders are allowed to take a catch on the bounce.
Prior to this tournament, three 40 over Blind Cricket World Cups have taken place – 1998 in Delhi (South Africa beating Pakistan in the final), 2002 in Chennai (Pakistan beating South Africa) and 2006 in Islamabad (Pakistan beating India). Thus, Pakistan have played in all four major tournament finals so far. Blind cricket was invented in Melbourne in 1922 by two blind factory workers who improvised the game using a tin containing rocks. The Victorian Blind Cricket Association was founded shortly after, in 1922, and the first sports ground and clubhouse for blind cricket was built at Kooyong, Melbourne in 1928.
Coming back to 2012 Twenty20 final. India, after being put in to bat, scored 258/8 in their allotted 20 overs, mainly due to an innings of 98 in just 43 balls by B1 player Ketanbhai Patel. His team were in a spot of bother at 119/4 at the half-way stage, but Patel ensured there were no further hiccups. Pakistan began solidly and were 75/0 in 7 overs and 108/2 in 10, but the asking rate was climbing fast.
They lost wickets at regular intervals and were restricted to 229/9, losing by 29 runs. Pankaj Bhue took 3/37 for India, while Patel was rightfully adjudged the Man of the Match. Patel bagged the Man of the Series award in the B1 category, Jayaramaiah in the B2 category and Ajaykumar Reddy in the B3 category. (all Indians). It was heartening to see a 5000-strong crowd for the final and pleasantly surprising to see the match telecast. Hopefully the concerned administrators will realise how talented these men are and provide greater incentives to them in the near future.
All the participants of this tournament deserve the highest accolades for defying the odds and representing the nation in a world tournament. It takes a lot of grit and determination to do what these amazing athletes have done – it is indeed an exemplary lesson for all of us, who at times crib at the slightest of difficulties. They have shown that no obstacle is too high to surpass, and no mountain is to high to climb.
Kudos to them all, and the winners in particular, and let us wish that their feats inspire others to reach similar heights. More importantly, they have taught us to be satisfied in life and make the most of what you have in spite of limitations.