This is the tragic story of Bhalaji Damor, a completely blind cricketer, who took India to the semifinals of the inaugural Cricket World Cup for the blind in 1998, and now suffers in ignominy. Damor is an exceptional all-rounder and has scored 3,125 runs and taken 150 wickets in a career spanning 125 matches, and holds the record for most wickets taken by an Indian blind cricketer.
Now, he works as a farm-hand in Piprana village in Madhya Pradesh and occasionally coaches children in a nearby school, while barely managing to make ends meet. After his outstanding performance in the World Cup, he had expected to receive a job with Government under the sports quota or physically handicapped quota, but all his applications were rejected by the Government. It is difficult for him to support his family of three as he barely manages to find a job in nearby farms due to his blindness. His wife also works as a casual farm worker, and at the end of the month they are able to make about Rs 3,000 per month, which is barely enough to eke out a living.
As a child, he had a special talent for cricket and was encouraged to play in local tournaments. As his reputation grew, he was called up to the national side and led India to the semis with some brilliant all-round performances. Such was his role in the team’s success, that he was referred to as ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ by his teammates. Bhaskar Mehta, who is the vice president of National Association for Blind, said the Indian blind team hasn’t seen another all-rounder of Damor’s abilities. And yet here he is living a life of hardship, while India’s ‘other’ star cricketers are buying exotic motorcycles and watching tennis games in the Royal Box at Center Court.
So, who is responsible for this pathetic state of affairs? Under whose jurisdiction does ‘blind cricket’ fall? The Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) is a foundation for blind cricketers in India, whose work is to manage and control all the events, tours and matches undertaken by India blind cricket team. It is a registered voluntary body, with no connection with either the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, or the Board of Control for Cricket in India i.e. the BCCI.
The Samarthanam Trust For Disabled is an NGO that sponsors the India blind cricket team. The BCCI, despite several pleas over the years is yet to bring the team under its organization, due to which the players are left without adequate infrastructure and training facilities. Affiliation with the BCCI is something that could do wonders for the game, given the enormous resources it possesses. If there are no resources to support the existing team, how can it be expected that care will be taken of the well-being of its former players!? If things do not change for the better, we might hear stories of even more Bhalaji Damors from all over the country!
Images courtesy of Times of India