“I love cricket and not being able to see does not stop me from playing it,” said Muhammad Tofeeq, who is a member of the Pakistan blind cricket team, and fits in the B1 category. Tofeeq is visually impaired since birth, and although an all-rounder, he prefers bowling during matches.
“I do not face any difficulties while playing,” said the zealous 26-year-old cricketer who is not letting his visual disadvantage get in the way of his passion.
He was talking to The Express Tribune during one of the three recent one-day matches played in Karachi between the blind cricket teams of Pakistan and India. Pakistan won the series 2-1. A blind team consists of 11 players, and is divided into B1, B2 and B3 categories which indicate totally blind, partially blind (visibility up to three to four meters) and partially sighted players (visibility up to seven to eight meters), respectively.
According to the coach, Abdul Razzaq, 40% of the match should be played by the players in B1 category. “There are four players in the B1 category, three players in B2 and four players in B3.” The score made by the B1 players is counted as a double. For example, one run is counted as two runs.
Razzaq has been a part of the cricket team for 12 years during which he also served as captain. He retired last year before becoming the coach.
“Coaching is tough, especially while developing a connection between the B1 players and the ball,” said Razzaq.
“The ball used by the blind cricket team is filled with ball bearings which produce sounds when the ball is thrown. This way, the players can trace the direction towards which the ball is headed.”
The coach feels that developing strategies is another tough part of the job. “I watched the Twenty20 in December; I observed what we lacked and the strengths of the opponents.
“Till now, our team has won 10 out of 12 international series.” added the coach.
The blind cricket team of Pakistan was established in 1998. “I was 14 years old when I got selected for the national blind cricket team,” said Anees Javed, a 20 year old from Islamabad. The youngster is the vice-captain and opening batsman for the Islamabad Cricket Club for the Blind, he concedes that “Fielding is tough.”
Masood Jan, from the B3 category is a physical trainer in the team. As part of the team since its establishment, Jan shared contentedly that he played the first ball, scored the first fifty, the first century and the first double century.
“I hold a place in the Guinness World Records, 2000-2001 edition,” said Jan. He holds a record of making 262 runs with 40 boundaries in a match against South Africa [played in India], in 1998. “Nobody has broken this record to-date.”
Jan retired in 2013, after which he started serving as the trainer. When asked about government support for the team, Jan was of the view that the team received money from the government in Pervez Musharraf’s era only.
Hurdles for the team
According to the chairman of the Pakistan Blind Cricket Council (PBCC), Syed Sultan Shah, the biggest problem for the squad is the lack of facilities.
“The government of Punjab gifted us land after the second World Cup in 2002,” he lamented. “However, they did not build a stadium there.”
Sultan also demanded due recognition for his side.
“The team should be considered as much a part of Pakistan as those citizens who have no disabilities.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2014.