‘If BCCI can hold IPL during Covid, why not support us?’ – India’s disabled cricketers speak out
India’s disabled cricketers are speaking out against the indifference and apathy displayed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. They are asking why the world’s richest cricketing body cannot support them when smaller countries include their disabled cricketers. That’s the focus on #StoryOfTheWeek.
“The Constitution of India says everyone is equal doesn’t it? Then why this discrimination towards us?”.
Vijay Kant Tiwari, off spinner in India’s Physically Challenged Cricket Team and Captain, Karnataka State Physically Challenged Cricket Team and South Zone makes no secret of his bitterness and disappointment. A professional cricketer for eight years, Vijay has played for India in tournaments in South Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Vijay was disabled in his right leg after a bike accident when he was 14. The surgery that followed was not done correctly. This led to a permanent limp and inability to fold the leg.
Apart from cricket, Vijay had a side business in events management. That has come to a halt after lockdown.
Disabled cricketers struggle for money, support
“Since February there has been no event and my savings are used up”, says Vijay, who is now looking for work.He is fortunate compared to other physically disabled cricketers. “I am not married, and my father is a retired Indian Army officer, so my parents are able to look after me”.
However, Vijay is angry and upset by the desperate crisis his fellow disabled cricketers are in. Sourav Ganguly, he says, has let them down.
When Sourav Ganguly was appointed Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President of the , we were all optimistic because os his major contribution to cricket and its development in India. But he has ignored us. Are we not citizens of India? Do we not have equal rights? If small countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan can include their disabled players in the main cricket board, why not India? – Vijay Kant Tiwari, Member, India’s Physically Challenged Cricket Team
Many expectations from Ganguly as BCCI chief
It’s like a storm has been unleashed after Ravi Chauhan, General Secretary, Physically Challenged Cricket Association of India (PCCAI), openly slammed the BCCI chief for disappointing India’s disabled cricketers. In a strongly worded press release, Chauhan, a former physically disabled cricketer, said lack of recognition was blocking disabled cricketers from qualifying for various sports schemes in the states and the Centre.
“These are good players”, says Chauhan. “They don’t want but equal opportunity. The cricket boards of England, South Africa and even Pakistan have got a disability wing, but for some reason BCCI has completely overlooked this issue”.
The indifference, says Vijay, is hurtful given the BCCI’s status as the number one cricketing body in the world. “We play the same game as the regular players. If Steve Waugh can start a fundraising campaign for us, why can’t our own board support us? You have time to organise the IPL during Covid-19 but not look at our plight?”
Gurmeet Dhiman, a cricketer in the Himachal Pradesh Physically Challenged Cricket Team, is among those severely affected after the lockdown. Apart from cricket, this 30-year-old has represented India in international martial arts tournaments.
“I have borrowed a lot of money from friends to make ends meet”, says Gurmeet who lost his left hand in an accident. His elderly mother and younger brother depend on him. “I have a flour mill where I make a little money but it’s not enough. It’s embarrassing to keep asking friends for money. There is no support from the Himachal Pradesh government either”.
Support from the BCCI, says Gurmeet, is critically needed. “How can we progress otherwise”? he asks. “Unless our cricket board helps us, how will we go survive?”
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