Played on a normal cricket pitch with 11 players on each side, blind cricket has been in action since 1922. But few have followed it or even know it exists. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
Away from the glamour and glitz, cricket is played by those less abled and less privileged than their idols.
Cricket is a bat and ball game played between two teams of 11 players each.
It’s the world’s second most popular game with an estimated 2.5 billion fans worldwide.
Its longest format, test cricket, can go on for five days. Shorter formats, one-day internationals and Twenty20, provide more excitement for some and take only one day and under four hours, respectively, for an outcome.
With the rise in popularity of the shorter formats, cricketers are now earning global fame and reaping handsome rewards for sharing their talent.
But not everybody enjoys the limelight or a huge fan base.
Away from the lush outfields, capacity crowds and fireworks, the sport is played by those who are less abled, but equally talented.
Some are unable to see the very equipment. Others are running in to bowl fast – on crutches.
Some even have an old chair for a wicket.
But the love for the sport remains on par and the excitement levels up high.
These are the players who strive to be the best at the sport, but are the players the rest of the world often doesn’t hear about or watch.
A bowler stands next to the stumps and shouts ‘Play’. He delivers the ball under-arm. The ball chimes with the sound of bells as it bounces at least twice before reaching the batsman. The ringing of the bells helps the batsman and fielders who are blind to locate the ball. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
The batsman judges the speed of the ball through the sound and strikes accordingly. The sound helps fielders not only to locate the ball but also to throw it back to the wicketkeeper. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
All the players remember the names of their cricket heroes. Some, however, have never seen them in action. The players who have partial eyesight describe to their teammates who are unable to see at all what is happening on the field and around. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
Lucrative contracts and global stardom are not likely to materialise for Israr Hassan, although he was a prolific performer at the 2014 Blind World Cup. He manages his family’s corner shop in his village to make ends meet. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
The journey to global recognition has been more arduous for physically disabled cricketers than their visually impaired counterparts. Disabilities can range from the loss of a finger or toe to the loss of a limb, making it difficult to evenly match competing teams. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
Farhan Saeed lost his left leg to polio at the age of two. His favourite cricketer is Shoaib Akhtar and just like him, Saeed hops across a long run-up on his right leg with support from a crutch on the left and sends a quick delivery. Despite his disability, he still hopes to become an international cricketer. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
Many of the disabled players have faced ridicule and cruel taunts throughout their lives, but their determination and persistence often silences these same voices. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
Some of the disabled cricket players work in garments factories, others in shops. But, they say, cricket has helped them to prove their worth to society. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
Bystanders often admire the persistence, perseverance and dedication of the team of disabled cricket players. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
But the love of the game on the subcontinent is born on the streets, where a chair, an empty crate of bottles or cardboard cartons serve as a wicket on the batting end and a brick or a stone at the other. This is where future stars are born. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
A tennis ball is wrapped with electrical tape, teams are decided, creases are marked and a ball is tossed. Quick singles and straight drives are what matter on the street. If the ball goes into the houses along the street, the player is out. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
There is only one good bat. Shoes are a rare commodity. Houses on both sides limit stroke play to dead straight. Passing vehicles, aged pedestrians and carts selling popcorn, sweet potatoes and ice-cream often pause the game. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
There is competitiveness, arguing, scuffles and, often, somebody ends up beaten up. In a final hurrah just as the sun is setting, those heading to the mosque for prayer delay the last hit. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
By: Faras Ghani |