Convincing the parents will be a challenge, admits CABI president Mahantesh GK
Women’s cricket has been on a rise in the country since India played in the 2017 World Cup final at Lord’s against England. Although the Women in Blue missed out on their maiden title narrowly by nine runs, it provided the much-needed push for the women’s game to excel in the country.
The sport received a further boost when on July 27, the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) announced the decision to form the first-ever blind women’s team that will tour England in July 2021 for a bilateral series. The decision came in after CABI accepted the invitation from Blind Cricket England and Wales (BCEW) during its Annual General Meeting (AGM) two days before.
“The Nationals has recently started but states like Odisha, Maharashtra and Delhi all had their teams from two years before while Karnataka started last year,” CABI president Mahantesh GK told Women’s CricZone.
“I think there are five-six states whose players stand a chance to play for the country. But you never know there might be some surprises. Since Odisha are the defending champions, I am expecting a good amount of representation from them.”
Constructing a whole new team is a difficult task and with blind cricket completely different from mainstream cricket, it is more challenging than ever. But Mahantesh is committed to it.
“Absolutely! Even making the blind men’s cricket team it had its own challenges. Likewise, constructing the India women’s blind cricket team will be a daunting task and a challenging one,” he said. “But we are committed to doing this. CABI will do everything possible and its patent organisation Samarthanam Trust is always there as a backbone.”
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However, the most challenging part, according to Mahantesh, is to convince the parents.
“One is picking the right talent. Another most challenging part is to convince the parents (to let their children play and travel during tours). We have to counsel them, then there is the safety and security concern which we have to emphasise a lot more on,” he explained.
The inaugural Women’s National Blind Cricket Tournament was held in December 2019 with Odisha emerging champions among the seven participating states. According to CABI, the second season is going to be held sometime later this year and that will form the basis of the national squad selection.
“We will probably shortlist some 30 odd players, then conduct selection trials and filter it down to a 17-member squad. Once this is done, parallelly we will also start talking to potential supporters including the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, Government of India and the BCCI,” informed Mahantesh. “We are also in talks with Nepal and New Zealand for some matches.”
The Sports Ministry has been a supporting figure to CABI in the past during the men’s foreign tours, and Mahantesh hopes to get the same this time too. “I will also write to the Ministry of Social Justice which is for disability also the Ministry of Women and Child Development. I will also approach a lot of potential women-oriented brands for the help,” he stated.
Mahantesh also stated they would prefer a woman head coach although CABI hasn’t advertised for it.
“We will finalise that later once we pick up the Indian team. We might get some professional coaches or also people who are associated with blind cricket. We prefer a woman to be the coach but are also open to have a professional men’s coach,” asserted the board chief.
CABI will hold the national camp just a month before the team departs and the team will also play some practice games against state teams.
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Mahantesh isn’t sure about the venue for the Nationals but hopes that some state associations will come forward to host the tournament in few days. “Right now we are not sure about the venue. We had a virtual AGM last week and spoke about this to host the tournament. We are expecting some state boards to come forward and then will analyse and extend support to organise the event. We should be doing it in other than Delhi maybe in Mumbai or Bengaluru or Hyderabad or Chennai,” he informed.
However, Mahantesh is unhappy with the way CABI doesn’t get discussed in the meetings despite making its place on the agenda.
“It’s very hard to get any reply from the BCCI (laughs). Unfortunately, BCCI doesn’t make quick decisions when it comes to disability cricket and even blind cricket,” he rued.
“Vinod Rai had promised to support blind cricket in a big way and Anurag Thakur ji has committed to grant some monetary benefits. Like that N Srinivasan also tried to help in the best possible way, but somehow it becomes the last agenda and doesn’t get discussed at all in the meeting
“But I won’t lie, they have done a little bit of help to blind cricket. For two years they have contributed some money and allotted good grounds to us.”
To encourage more women take up the sport, CABI has requested all the state associations to have a woman representative from the next AGM and form their own team
“In the last AGM, I personally requested all the participating states few things – firstly, from next AGM we should have one woman representation from each state and secondly, we should encourage women to manage their affairs. Thirdly, all the states should work towards forming their own women’s cricket team. Hopefully, things will be taken care of and we grow parallelly alongside men’s cricket team,” he concluded.