Thatscricket - News - India's blind cricketers embark on Pak tour

Published: Wednesday, February 18, 2004, 21:51 [IST]
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New Delhi:India's blind cricket players leave for their first ever tour of Pakistan hoping to spread a message of goodwill with their version of the game. "Our tour was always confirmed irrespective of the status of the national team," said George Abraham, chairman of the Association for Cricket for the Blind in India.

The Indian Government last week gave the go-ahead to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for their first full tour of Pakistan in almost 15 years after days of speculation.

But Abraham said he was happy that the blind team was touring Pakistan before Sourav Ganguly's squad and hoped the series would also play a role in improving relations between the nuclear-capable neighbours.

"Our version of the game may not be a treat to watch but it will do its own bit to spread the message of goodwill," Abraham said about blind cricket, which has its own rule book.

Blind cricketers use a plastic ball packed with small metallic beans, which helps players track its movement. The bowler sends down deliveries under-arm and the batsman takes a swipe, most often what would be a sweep shot in regular cricket. The rest of the match is similar to the regular game.

Abraham said each match was keenly contested. "You have to see one to believe it," he said.

Cricketers are classified into fully blind (B1), partially-blind (B2) and partially-sighted (B3) categories. Each team needs to have a minimum of four B1 category players, a maximum of three B2 and four B3 players.

"The rules have evolved over the years, but India has been instrumental in bringing various countries together," Abraham said. "We hope more and more countries will be part of future series."

Abraham said the holding of national championships since 1990 and having a domestic system in place in India were instrumental in popularising the game among those with impaired vision.

Pakistan, who have toured India for both editions of the blind World Cup held in New Delhi in 1998 and Chennai in 2002, won the last championship. The Indian team is now hoping to make their mark in the upcoming series of five matches starting later this week.

"We lost to Pakistan in the last World Cup and are hoping to win this series," said captain Manvinder Patwal. "Even our matches are very keenly contested." Patwal said playing Pakistan was always a pressure situation.

"The pressure in our matches can be gauged from the fact that there were as many as seven run-outs in our innings against Pakistan in the last World Cup," said Patwal.

The Indian captain is a big fan of Pakistan's legendary seamer Wasim Akram and paceman Shoaib Akhtar.

"Shoaib is the best among the present lot but as an Indian I am happy when he is clobbered by our batsmen," said Patwal. "It would be a dream come true for us to meet players like him on this tour."

The first match of the series will be played in Lahore on February 20. Karachi will be the venue for the next two matches on February 22 and 24, followed by matches in Shekhopura on February 27 and Rawalpindi on February 29.

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