Striving hard for recognition

Caribbean cricketers keen to show their worth on world stage

 When Darren Sammy and his men lifted the World Twenty20 crown a couple of months ago, it seemed like West Indies of the old were back.

The two-time 50-over World Cup winners had endured a tough phase after having enjoyed the glory days of the mid-seventies and early nineties, and the Windies’ triumph in Sri Lanka signalled their return as equal competitors even if not contenders. That fight for equality, however, continues for blind cricket in the Caribbean.

While conventional cricket has expectedly received a lion’s share of interest, women’s cricket and Kiddy cricket (cricket for children) are too being backed by the West Indies Cricket Board. However, the parent body’s reluctance to take the West Indies Cricket Council for the Blind (WICCB) under its wings, has hurt the sport’s chances of thriving in the Caribbean.

The WICB had provided a full playing kit and a monetary contribution to their blind cricket team ahead of the T20 World Cup for the Blind in Bangalore, but that show of ‘sympathy’ is not going to sway the WICCB from their long-term dream of one day being affiliated to the ones in charge of cricket on the Islands.

“WICB helps in certain ways but they can certainly do more,” West Indian blind cricket team manager Evelyn Stevenson said on Tuesday.

“We are still not officially recognised by them and if we were I think the sport can grow a lot more. They sponsor the women’s team and also look into the improvement of kiddy cricket so why not blind cricket? Once again, we are not looking for them to provide us with charity, we are only asking them to give us recognition.

We want to be treated as equals. We don’t want to be practicing behind the trees when the conventional team get big grounds to practice on,” said Stevenson, while his team was getting mauled by Pakistan in their match at the Central College Grounds here.

When asked if West Indian cricket’s descent had a part to play in the way blind cricket was ignored, Stevenson said: “Could be. At one point we were the powerhouses of cricket and we created a lot of hype and that sold well amongst the general populous.

We are very reactive people. When they do will, they will back you but when they don’t it’s a different story. If West Indian cricket was the same as it was two or three decades ago, maybe blind cricket too would have been recognised in a big way.”
Blind cricket in the Windies officially took off in 2003 but failed to strike a chord with the public. International cricketers like Sir Garfield Sobers and Desmond Haynes have promoted the sport in the past, but that has done little to lift the sport from where it continues to lie.

Talking about the state of people with disabilities in the Caribbean, Stevenson said: “Growing up with a disability is very hard in the West Indies. It was very bad a decade ago but now things are changing.

Around a decade ago, it was likely for a person with a disability to be locked up or sent to an institution but now they are out in the open and are getting a few opportunities to do normal things. The mentality towards people with disabilities has changed a lot. People are more liberal in their approach and that’s something that has helped us a great deal.

Cricket can be used to further establish a disabled person’s position as an equal in West Indies. We just want the chance to show that we are worthy citizens of a proud nation... nothing more.”

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