Maharashtra's Surendra Kasare is raring to make his mark at the India-Pakistan wheelchair cricket meet
Any India Pakistan sporting encounter on the field is one of nail-biting tension and excitement. Be it cricket or hockey, every game between these two countries is closely watched.
A moment that Surendra Harichandra Kasare never imagined that he would get to be a part of as a young boy playing cricket on the streets of Mumbai.
On 18 September, it will be a dream come true when he takes the field in Dubai in the International Wheelchair Cricket Tournament against Pakistan.
It is also a proud moment for Maharashtra as Kasare is the only player from the state to be selected for the India Wheelchair Cricket XI team.
Quite remarkable given that Kasare had never even heard of wheelchair cricket until 2012, the year he suffered a spinal cord injury in a road accident. He was 24 years old at the time and worked at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
I spent two years in hospital after I suffered severe injuries. I went to many doctors', but they told me there was no hope. I was not willing to accept that and was determined to go ahead. - Surendra Kasare, Wheelchair Cricket Player
Easier said than done. Kasare had to start all over again, re-learning how to do simple, daily tasks like getting dressed and riding a scooter. He spent three years at a paraplegic rehabilitation center in Sion where he was put through physiotherapy and exercises.
Thanks to the support of the organization Nina Foundation, that works to support and empower people with spinal cord injuries, he was able to piece his life together and find a sense of purpose. He discovered wheelchair basketball, thanks to a fellow member of Nina Foundation.
"I tried my hand at wheelchair basketball first, but the training center was very far and going back and forth was exhausting. Then I heard that a national-level wheelchair cricket team was being formed and I decided to sign up", says Kasare.
Given his experience playing cricket before the accident, Kasare was able to find a place in the national side after putting in some effort. He went on to get selected for the Wheelchair Cricket IPL 2018 and was in the India team that played the first international wheelchair cricket tournament against Bangladesh earlier this year.
"I was very happy with my performance", says Kasare. "I took one wicket, 21 runs, and three run-outs". He is looking forward to the match against Pakistan, and says he has enormous respect for the team because they took the lead in establishing wheelchair cricket. "It's a day and night match and if we win this, we will lift the cup."
For Dr Ketna Mehta, Founder-Trustee, Nina Foundation, Kasare's selection is a proud moment.
"Despite the humongous problems and issues of rehabilitation, he has surmounted them all with true grit and prepared to once again bring laurels for our country - the same country which does not even acknowledge spinal cord injury as a distinct disability in our Disabilities Bill, nor provides for comprehensive rehabilitation. We are patriotic and proud to play for India. "
Kasare has been funding his equipment and travel expenses thanks to support from Nina Foundation and his family and hopes the visibility will translate into more support from the Maharashtra government.