Pakistan Blind Cricket Team. ©Twitter/Pakistan Blind Cricket
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The Pakistan Blind Cricket Council (PCBB) has taken a brilliant initiative to promote blind women’s cricket, by arranging the teams’ first ever international tour. For the historic occasion, Nepal’s team will be touring Pakistan between 27 January and 5 February, to play five T20s.

What began as an idea back in early 2014, finally came to fruition four years later, in 2018. Syed Sultan Shah, Chairman PBCC, recounted the development of the women’s game, to bring it to this level. “The series in Nepal was actually planned in early 2014, because that was when we made a road map for the development of women’s cricket,” Shah told Women’s CricZone. “But, at that time, due to funding issues, we could not execute it. 2018 was when we finally executed our plans.

“Our commitment to Nepal was made back in 2014, where we agreed that after launching our blind women’s team, the first international series they played against was going to be them,” he continued. “This is because the only other blind women’s team in Asia is Nepal’s. In fact, PBCC helped develop blind cricket in Nepal in 2006, due to which we have very strong ties with them. In that way, it made sense that our women’s teams’ first series would be against them.”

The Pakistani team will be eager to start off their international career on a positive note, and has been preparing accordingly. “After the two-day camp, there will be a further conditioning camp for the players. The 11-day camp will be held from 15 January onwards, in Bahawalpur. This will help take the teams preparation further. For the time being, players are continuing their practice in their respective regions,” detailed Shah on the squad’s preparation.

The two-day camp was the second phase of the plan that was mapped out for the development of blind women’s cricket, with the Australian High Commission in Pakistan funding it. The first and third phases have been funded by Interloop Pakistan to make this series possible.

Undoubtedly, this upcoming series will be a huge milestone for blind women’s cricket, and for the players themselves. The opportunity to play in it has invoked in the players, a range of emotions. “Definitely, there is a mix of emotions,” said Shah. “They are excited, as well as nervous. Excited because they are going to be representing Pakistan, and nervous because their cricket is at the initial level. It’s only been around for a few months and any sport takes time to develop from the grass roots level. It is also their first series, so they are under a bit of pressure. But, we, as the management, are trying to take this pressure off them. Our only message to them is, ‘It’s a sport, go and enjoy it.'”

But while this may be the message the management is conveying to the squad, they realise the importance of this tour. Not only will it be a historic achievement, and a massive step in the development of blind women’s cricket in Pakistan, it provides a platform to PBCC to get their message across. “There are many things associated with every international event; networking, media promotion, etc,” acknowledged Haroon. “When you have these types of events, it’s a matter of great pride for the players to represent their country. There is a stigma attached to the disabled community, so, for our blind women’s team, when they’re representing their country, it is a matter of great honour. It goes a long way in proving to society that these players are not hampered by their disabilities, but are, in fact equally productive members of society.”

He further added that these tours “not only bring the masses together, but create more media awareness, form networks in the cricketing community, and advocate for the rights of the disabled.”

With prominent players such as Sana Mir tweeting about the tour and showing their whole-hearted support for it, the series is gaining momentum. Shah reflected on the support shown by Mir saying, “As a sportsman, she was very happy to see blind women join the sport. Sana Mir is an ambassador for women’s sport in Pakistan. She has sent a very positive message regarding this initiative.” It has no doubt helped spread the word of this upcoming series and has brought it to the attention of a much wider base.

While this series is a step in the right direction, PBCC’s work does not end after it. In fact, it just starts. About the current state of blind women’s cricket in Pakistan, Shah admitted they have “no camps yet,” but developing them will be a priority of the council. He outlined the plan for building on this initiative to grow the game further, explaining, “To develop the game further, we will be holding more domestic tournaments. We also proposed a series with England, that is currently in the pipeline, for November. The aim is to have the team play at least one international series per year, to go with their domestic events. Along with this, I’m very keen to promote blind women’s cricket, so we are making regions. In those regions, we will promote the game further by possibly setting up camps.”

By taking this step, PBCC has proven it is serious about not only promoting blind women’s cricket, but lending a hand to their players as well. Shah had a “simple message” for his fellow countryman to conclude the interview, where he said, “Come forward and support this cause. This is not just a sport, but is also associated with the lives of these players. This initiative has been taken to bring positive change. This we have done, for example, through helping many of players complete their education. We want to make them independent, upstanding citizens, who contribute to society.”

Hopefully, PBCC will be able to follow through with this initiative to grow the game further and put blind women’s cricket on the map, too.

This article was updated on January 15, 2019 (1000 hours GMT) after instructions from the source.

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