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World Cup-winning blind cricketers seek financial support, proper roadmap

The World Cup-winning India captain Ajay Kumar Reddy on Monday urged the BCCI to support blind cricket, saying it will go a long way in bringing professionalism and the much-needed financial boost to their game.

The Indian team for the blind recently won the T20 World Cup for the third consecutive time, defeating Bangladesh at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru. But despite the achievements, 10 players in the 17-member squad are jobless and due to the lack of financial support and many find it “difficult to pursue the sport” as they are “preoccupied” with earning livelihood.

“We have won the World Cup for the third consecutive time but we don’t have a title sponsor,” said Reddy, who scored a century in the final.

“It’s very difficult to play cricket when we know we have the bigger task of earning livelihood so that we can support our families,” said Reddy on the sidelines of a felicitation ceremony organised by Union sports minister Anurag Thakur.

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In April last year, the BCCI had recognized the Differently-abled Cricket Council of India (DCCI) to promote the sport among physically challenged, deaf, blind and wheelchair participants. However, not much changed in terms of support for the blind cricketers, according to G Mahantesh, the President of Cricket Association of the Blind in India.

“BCCI has been sympathetic to us all along providing us with infrastructure and training facilities but in order to bring more professionalism we need their financial support as well,” said Mahantesh.

Reddy, who has guided the team to two T20 blind World Cup trophies — 2017 and 2022 — is unhappy with the inordinate delay in putting a roadmap in place.

“The (BCCI) recognition has happened but there is no roadmap for our sport, no one knows what’s happening. We have also brought glory to the country on the cricket field and deserve to get (BCCI’s) central contract,” added Reddy.

Sunil Ramesh, who hit a hat-trick of centuries during the World Cup (against Nepal, South Africa and Bangladesh), and was adjudged ‘Player of the Tournament’ and ‘Player of the Match’ in the final, too said that with the pressure of earning a livelihood, the BCCI support will go a long way in securing their lives.

“We have no monetary support, no jobs and no security whatsoever. That’s the reason we only assemble before the world cup or a bilateral or triangular series, which are far and few between. If the Indian board wants, we too can play professionally,” said the 24-year-old all-rounder from Chikmanglur.

Asked what he would say to the India team, which has gone without a World Cup trophy since the title triumph in the 50-over format under Mahendra Singh Dhoni in 2011, Reddy said that for him and his team visualisation work wonders.

“I would say every player should do a bit of visualisation before sleep. That has helped us iron out a lot of our technical flaws and I’m sure India players will also benefit from it.

“The fact that they are in the India team means they are very good, but corrections (in technique) are a must and visualising one’s dismissal or a bad ball or poor fielding helps correct mistakes,” opined Reddy.

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