Why Indian players are struggling to win during overseas tours? Why Ishant in place of Bhuvi? Why no Rahane in the playing XI? As we keep questioning the Indian team for the loss in the test series against South Africa, let’s take a moment to appreciate the Indian team who defeated Pakistan in the 5th edition of blind cricket world cup. India entered this world cup as defending champions defeating Pakistan back in 2014.
While we have observed some dangerous bouncers, unpredictable swings, deathly yorkers, direct-hit run outs and timeless catches in cricket, how are the visually challenged players able to play the game? The rules are pretty much same as in the traditional format with some adjustments favoring the physical conditions of the players. Blind cricket was born in Australia during 1920, when two factory workers from Melbourne played cricket using metal cans with rocks. Here are some of the intricacies of the game:
A one-day game consists of 40 overs per innings. An innings must be completed within 3 hours else the batting team will gain additional runs. Test cricket is played for 3 days instead of five.
A match consists of 11 players from each squad. Players are categorized based on B1, B2 and B3 category.
B1 category: The players are completely blind and can’t distinguish any objects. A minimum of 4 players from this section should be considered in the playing XI. Runners are mandatory for B1 players while batting. The runs scored by a B1 batsman will be doubled and credited to the batsman. For identification, players from this category wear a white colored band in their wrist or a single white strip across their right shoulders. Also, the B1 players must bowl at least 40% of the overs.
B2 category: These players are partially blind having a visual degree less than 5 and can slightly identify objects. A minimum of 3 players must be considered from this category. B2 players can have runners for them while batting but is not mandatory. They wear a red colored band in their wrist or 2 white strips across their right shoulders.
B3 category: Players from this section have a visual degree less than 20, and have better vision when compared to B2 category. A maximum of 4 players can be considered from this category. B3 players wear a blue wrist band or 3 white strips across their right shoulders.
Visually challenged players from B4 and B5 category have better vision compared to the three mentioned categories. They are not allowed to play visually challenged cricket, but some sports do consider them.
The batsman and the bowler shouts “ready” before playing a delivery. Once the bowler and the batsman mutually agree to play, the bowler starts bowling his delivery. Before releasing the ball, the bowler must shout “Play” to signal the batsman that the ball is approaching. Failing to do this or causing a delay in bowling will result in a no-ball. Also, the fielders must not unnecessarily dive in the field unless the ball approaches him which will also result in penalty.
The bowling action is under-arm and ball must pitch at least twice before reaching the batsman. While fielding, the B1 players can dismiss a batsman by claiming a one-pitched catch.
The ball used is much larger in size than the regular cricket ball and has ball bearings which produces audible cues. Stumps too are larger in size made of metal with fluorescent orange or yellow color. The size of the ground is usually around 50 yards. Officiating umpires should also be audible with the calls they make such as a boundary or a wicket and must update the scores to the players regularly.
Cricket has not only provided new paths to these players. It’s also the other way. With cricket restricted to only a handful of countries, the visually challenged players have provided a new life for the game. Playing traditional cricket for countries like Argentina, Germany or Brazil might not be feasible. These countries have already provided a benchmark with their FIFA skills but when it comes to cricket they have to compete against regular cricketing fraternities like Australia or England. So as an entry point, tournaments like blind cricket world cup can involve more countries which will promote the game to a wider audience and will be a win-win situation for everybody.
No matter how many hurdles you face in life, love and passion towards your work will never stop you from achieving your dream. These players have just proved that. Not just cricket, but we have witnessed various examples in life where people with disabilities were able to compete well.