Having plunged into new depths of uncertainty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) is expecting the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to walk the talk and help Indian blind cricketers, some of whom are without jobs. CABI, registered in 2011 as a non-profit organisation, is the apex body conducting cricket for the blind across India. It is not recognised by the BCCI. The organisation, headed by founder Mahantesh G Kivadasannavar, generates funds through sponsorships and is backed by national award winning NGO Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled.
The Indian blind team players get match fees and in a year a blind cricketer roughly earns Rs 2 lakh if there is a full season. The Indian team was supposed to host South Africa between March 18-April 4 for a full series comprising 40-over ODI matches and T20 games, but it was called off due to COVID-19. “We had to call it off because of the coronavirus situation. The tour was scheduled for March 18-April 4. We suffered Rs 10 lakh loss,” Mahantesh told IANS during an interaction.
“Physically and financially they (blind cricketers) are affected. Some of them were working in small companies and all…they have lost their jobs. Some of the Indian squad members have lost their jobs, let’s say 5-6 members of the squad,” said the 49-year old who is also the President of World Blind Cricket Ltd.
India have won a total of four Blind cricket World Cups — (2012 and 2017 T20 World Cups) and (2014 and 2018 ODI World Cups). Besides, there is a national tournament held across India in a Ranji Trophy model with 24 states participating.
“It’s called Nagesh Trophy, named after our co-founder. It goes on for three months. Besides this, we play two bilateral series home and two away,” said Mahantesh, throwing light on the annual activity. “Imagine the condition of domestic players. They have jobs but not all and they give a lot to cricket.” Mahantesh, a former blind cricketer, had approached the BCCI during a visit last year, with President and former India captain Sourav Ganguly assuring help within ’15 days’.
“I thought Ganguly would do it. He said within 15 days you will hear from us. This was 30th November, 2019. I went to BCCI, they called. “They had asked someone from Kerala to look into it. I spoke to Ganguly that day, and he said ‘I am here don’t worry’. He was our brand ambassador for the first T20 World Cup (2012),” said Mahantesh.
“I feel if something can happen, it can happen under him. I don’t know why he is delaying. We are asking for recognition like other countries. And the BCCI constitution also mandates the Lodha Committee…so they are supposed to do that.
“The Committee mandates that BCCI should support blind cricket. Disabled and cricket for deaf is different, they don’t have any structure and BCCI plans to club them I think.” Spelling out their basic demands from the BCCI, he added: “If they could have given us some financial grants, we could have given that to our players. And we normally struggle to get mainstream grounds to play even international matches.
“The state cricket associations say we may have to take permission from BCCI and all. So if BCCI recognises blind cricket, we can get those grounds. “So getting grounds is always a challenge. Recognition will also help players get raises in their jobs.”
Mahantesh added CABI has also written to the sports ministry to give them the recognition of a National Sports Federation. Meanwhile, Samarthanam Trust, run by Mahantesh, helped the needy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We helped the needy across India. We provided rapid relief kits which contained daily requirements. We also provided mid-day meals to daily wage workers, street dwellers. We also provided help to frontline workers,” Mahantesh said. “For the last 24 years we have been working on 6-7 verticals having higher education as one of the key components for blind children,” he added. The other main verticals are skilling, sports and culture, environment, rehabilitation and rural initiatives.
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