Pakistan~~s blind cricketers heading to India for WC

Published: Friday, November 29, 2002, 21:04 [IST]
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Karachi: Pakistan's national blind cricket team is heading to India on Saturday where it will vie for a World Cup title and make the first step towards repairing severed cricket ties with its nuclear neighbours. The 16-member side is heading to Cheenai, where the second World Cup for the Blind, a six-nation tournament of One-day matches, is scheduled from December 3 to 14. "We are eyeing the World Cup title and with our positive attitude hope to play our part in the revival of cricket between Pakistan and India," Agha Shaukat Ali, chairman of Pakistan's Blind Cricketers' Association (PBCA), told AFP. India cut cricketing links with Pakistan more than two years ago over the disputed state of Kashmir, where New Delhi accuses Islamabad of sponsoring an Islamic insurgency. Both countries are due to play in the World Cup 2003 in South Africa, the first International Cricket Council (ICC) event to pitch the archrivals against each other since then. The first World Cup in South Africa, 1998, saw Pakistan's blind team romp into the final to play against the home side only to be defeated. This time around, led by aggressive all-rounder Abdur Razzaq, the team is primed for a win. "We have prepared to the best our abilities and hope that traditional rivals India and Pakistan meet in the final at Chennai (Madras)," said Razzaq. Razzaq holds the record for making the fastest half-century in international blind cricket, scoring it in just 19 balls against South Africa in the last cup. The all- rounder also shone last year in the only blind international Test match ever played at this level, taking five wickets. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) provided the national blind side with funding for their airfares, but otherwise the players have borrowed money to make ends meet during the tour. "We are going on the trip using loaned money because we never received a reply to our requests for funding from the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf or the Punjab (provincial) governor," he said. The selection process for the side was as riddled with controversy as any national cricket team. The country's most celebrated blind batsman Masood Jan was left out after being expelled from the team on charges of conduct code violation earlier this year. Jan hit a monumental 262 against South Africa during the previous World Cup. "We had to take that strict action to prove no one is above the rules," PBCA chairman Ali said. Blind cricket is played using a ball filled with beads, which is bowled underarm, and of the starting 11 players, four must be totally blind, three must have 20 to 25 percent vision and four must have 45 to 60 percent vision.

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