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A cricket match where spirit scores

It was a cricket match with a difference.

The match was being played by the visually challenged.

The ball was not the usual cricket ball, but had a rattle inside it, which alerted the batsman.

As the ball was made of hard plastic, it did not bounce much.

The bowler would only bowl after the batsman said he was “ready”, and the bowler would again say “play” before bowling.

The ball would have to drop before the half-crease. Otherwise it would be declared a no ball.

The 15-over match, played on April 13, was the outcome of a great effort.

The teams were a mix of young men who were fully or partially visually challenged. All the players came from poor families.

Some of them were beggars, or vendors who made their living in local trains. Some were educated and looked forward to a future.

Many of them have been abroad to play cricket.

Subodh Rajak, 30, a graduate, who stays at New Kazidanga in Bandel, sells incense sticks in trains.

He was fond of sports, especially cricket, from his childhood.

He has participated in a national cricket championship organised by an NGO in Chennai in 2000.

It was at his initiative that “Movement of Visually Handicapped”, an organisation for the blind, had been set up about two years ago at Bandel.

“We did not get our organisation registered. Our membership has now crossed 100. We also need entertainment. So we have organised the cricket tournament. We will play against the visually challenged persons from Nabadwip,” said Subodh.

Another player of the Bandel team, Gautam Dey, 23, a resident of Sinthir More, and a student of Bengali Honours in Rabindra Bharati University, is visually challenged from birth.

He lost his father when he was a child and his mother is terminally ill from a brain tumour.

Gautam, who wanted to be a football player, has been to Thailand in November last year to play football with the help of an NGO.

He regretted that there was no one to help them.

“There is no allowance for us. We don’t need pity, but respect and reservation for jobs according to our qualifications,” said Gautam.

Saheb Hussain, 23, who is also a member of the Bandel unit for the visually challenged and a resident of Titagarh, is the son of a former employee of a jute mill.

He is visually challenged since birth.

Saheb, who had passed Higher Secondary, is a good athlete, and is scheduled to leave for Indonesia in June to participate in the para-Olympics.

Raj Kumar Bhagat, 22, from Nabadwip, is partially visually challenged. A BA second year student, Raj is also the son of a jute mill employee.

“Cricket is not just a game for us. It means so many things to us. So we collected subscriptions from residents,” said Subodh.

He said they wanted the local MLA Asit Majumdar to hand over a trophy to the winning team, but he was busy with the elections.

Trinamul panchayat member Saadia Akhtar, who inaugurated the game by throwing a ball, left in a hurry.

So a resident of the area and High Court lawyer Kashinath Ray handed over the trophy to Bandel team, which won by six wickets. Bechu Mondal of Bandel, who scored 53 runs, was declared the man of the match.

“We believe the society neglects us. We pray for a change in the system,” said Subodh.

“We demand reservation for the visually challenged and jobs. We need a change in the system,” Raj said.

The lunch was unusual too for a cricket match: the humble but tasty chirer pulao (flattened rice pulao).