Disability is no handicap for these Pakistan

Published: Tuesday, May 20, 2008, 3:26 [IST]
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Karachi: Polio withered Salim Karim's right leg when he was a child and a motorbike accident in his teens seriously damaged his left but though he can barely walk, he is the driving force behind disabled cricket in Pakistan.

Karim, 42, set up a team for physically impaired people with two friends in 2006 and they now run the pioneering Disabled Cricket Association of Pakistan.

"I started this team with a vision to make all physically impaired people realise that they can live a life without any worries and I am happy that the cause has been served," Karim told AFP.

The determination to overcome their physical impediments is a common theme amongst the teammates and they play an important role in a country where health facilities and opportunities for disabled people are rudimentary at best.

Farhan Saeed, an amputee, bowls with the aid of a stick and says he has modeled his style on the action of Pakistani paceman Mohammad Asif.

"I lost my leg in an accident when I was four and life was miserable until I found my way in cricket," he said, adding: "It was only as a player that I had an opportunity to meet Asif last year."

Mohammad Ishaq, 22, lost the use of a hand to polio but he has become an outstanding fielder and bowls left-arm spin.

Mohammad Umar has only three fingers between his two hands yet sends down balls with incredible accuracy.

Kashif Hussain lost his right leg yet supplements his team's batting, standing with the help of a stick, and hopes one day to meet his childhood idol, India's Sachin Tendulkar.

Abdul Jabbar has an artificial leg and just one hand. He not only bats but bowls left-arm spin.

"I have lived my life without any worries because the thought of being disabled never crosses my mind," said Jabbar, who also drives a car.

Karim's partners in this venture are Ameeruddin Ansari, a former first-class cricketer who is now a coach and Mohammad Nizam, a die-hard cricket organiser.

The trio now run the Disabled Cricket Association of Pakistan on their own.

Their journey started with the trials to select the team, and to their amazement the response was overwhelming when it came about in 2006.

"We just advertised dates of the trials and there were dozens of players who wanted to be part of this team and after the success of the Karachi team we are on the verge of forming a Pakistan XI," said Ansari.

"They come on crutches but leave their support to show they can play and give lesson to all those who believe life in imparity is useless."

The first big step was to get recognition from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), and then at international level.

"The PCB has given a good response and we have also directed the International Cricket Council's attention towards this type of cricket. Since most of the countries have such teams why not start an international event," said Ansari.

Nizam arranges the team's activities and musters support.

"With the support of Rashid Latif (former Pakistan captain) and Younis Khan, we are trying to arrange a tour of India in the near future," said Nizam, who also convinced Ali Hussain Rizvi to coach the team.

Rizvi, who played one Test for Pakistan in 1997, believes the team's cricketers can achieve whatever they want.

"They have talent, the will to progress and when you have this, the sky is the limit."


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