It was a bright Sunday afternoon. A mat was laid on the wicket and umpires have taken their position. It was a leather ball cricket tournament. The spectators were waiting for the players to join in. All eyes were on the pavilion. 11 fielders and 2 batsmen rolled in on wheelchairs at St Johns Medical College Cricket Ground at Koramangala at Bengaluru on Sunday. Welcome to wheerchair cricket, which made its debut in South India, on April 30.
Karnataka players field during a match against UP in Divyaang Myithri Wheelchair Cricket Tournament at Bengaluru on April 30.
“Wheelchair cricket is quite popular in North India, in states such as UP and Rajasthan. This is the first time that wheelchair cricket is being played in South India,” asserted Devegowda Anjanappa, player-cum-organiser of this tournament. This wheelchair cricket tournament has been being organised by Bengaluru-based NGO, ‘Divyaang Myithri Sports Academy’. This national-level tournament saw three teams from UP, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu participating in it.
All the rules of traditional games were used in wheelchair cricket except that if the ball hits the wheelchair, the delivery is termed no ball and a free hit is given. As soon as the batsman hits the ball, he drops his bat and rolls his wheels to take a single or two.
UP players return to pavilion after losing a match against Karnataka by one run during Divyaang Myithri Wheelchair Cricket Tournament at Bengaluru on April 30.
It was a great sight to see 13 wheel-bound players fighting it out in the middle for a game of cricket. They played like champions, hitting fours and sixes from their wheelchairs, and they dived and jumped from their wheelchair to stop a ball while fielding. What champion players they were and they executed proper cricketing shots including text book cover and straight drives. They were no rash strokes. Cricket was the winner.
“We started with cricket first among people who are bound to wheelchairs as the gentleman’s game brings people of all walks of life, race, colour, region and religion together. We plan to have a wheelchair tennis, swimming and basketball soon,” said Devegowda.
Through this initiative Divyaang Myithri plans to identity talent who can compete in various other sports and train them for the Paralympics.
So, what are the challenges of playing wheelchair cricket? Sonu Gupta, Indian captain of wheelchair cricket and representing UP in this tournament, said they able to play cricket normally like the traditional format, but bringing in players from their homes to the ground is the biggest challenge.
“We love cricket and are able to play it like anybody else. But we are still waiting for BCCI affiliation. We want to be recognised as the Virat Kohli of wheelchair cricket,” said Sonu.