A trip that changed everything

The story of blind cricket as told by its pioneer

 George Abraham’s trip to Dehradun in 1989 not only changed the way he perceived the world, it also changed the way the world saw the visually impaired.

Subjected to obvious discrimination, the blind banked on cricket amongst other pastimes for relaxation. Blind cricket, which began in Melbourne in 1922 as something to keep the visually impaired occupied, trickled into a cricket-crazy India but it lacked any real direction.

That’s when the London-born Indian Abraham stepped in and took charge. Seeing that the blind were as capable as the rest of the world if not better at heart, Abraham directed all his energy in organising a National tournament and his dream came true when the Tata Steel Cricket Tournament for the Blind was conducted in 1990 with support from several noted cricketers and politicians.

There was, however, more to come from this small built man. With the National tournament having become an annual affair, Abraham was convinced that there were takers for this version of the sport too and took it to the next level. He was highly instrumental in setting up the World Blind Cricket Council (WBCC) and was also its founding chairman, soon after which he founded the Association for Cricket for the Blind in India (ACBI) in 1996.

“I was sleeping in a guesthouse in Dehradun and I was woken up when I heard someone scream Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev,” said an enthused Abraham during India’s match against England in the T20 World Cup for the Blind at the Central College grounds on Monday.

“I ran out and then I saw that they were blind children playing cricket and the ’keeper was screaming out their names to keep everyone else in the game. I kept watching them play and then I saw some great batting, very strict bowling and excellent fielding. I spoke to someone from the guest house and they said those kids played throughout the day and only took breaks to eat and stopped when the umpire could not see.”

“Then it struck me that something could be done,” he added quickly.When asked what it was that inspired him to take it up seriously, Abraham said: “I saw a great playing field, a great possibility and a lot of positivity. Did you know that blind cricket originated even before Don Bradman made his debut (smiles)!? During the days of the radio, blind people used to love listening to cricket commentary and in an attempt to play, they would roll tin cans so they can hear it move and strike it (the can) with sticks.”

Under Abraham’s leadership, the inaugural Blind Cricket World Cup was held in New Delhi in 1998. In the seven-nation affair, South Africa defeated Pakistan in the final while India and Australia were the two semifinalists.

After Abraham conducted two 40-over blind cricket World Cups, he gave up the mantle to the Samarthanam Trust as a couple its founders were part of India’s blind cricket team. He was, however, continually in the loop.

With able aid from Abraham, Mahantesh and Nagesh then formed the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) as the cricketing wing of Samarthanam last year, and they followed suit by organising the first T20 World Cup for the blind.

“I have handed all responsibilities over to these young gentleman,” said Abraham pointing at Nagesh and referring to Mahantesh before digressing. “A lot of people begin to watch blind cricket out of curiosity but after a point they are hooked to it. It’s all about the change in mindset. It will take a long time before blind cricket becomes big but we will get there someday.”

That hope is what got Abraham and blind cricket this far. Who is to say they won’t go any further?

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