December 4, 2013 1:42:29 am
The Tau Devi Lal stadium in Gurgaon wore a deserted look on Tuesday. It was host to an international T20 cricket match between the differently abled teams from India and Pakistan. There was no star-studded guest-list,no beeline of ministers,socialites,cricketers or donor organisations or officials from the local administration. Just a few curious onlookers standing atop the stadium wall,trying to ascertain what was going on. A strange spectacle for a cricket-crazy nation.
But the gloom of the empty stands did not dampen players spirits. The match they had conceived over three years took shape on World Disability Day.
On display was also an unwavering friendship the Pakistani physio taking care of an injured Indian player and Indians implementing the age old adage: Atithi devo bhavah (guests are gods) by ensuring good food and accommodation for their counterparts from across the border.
And all this,without the support of their respective governments.
The only support came in the form of granting a visa for two days to our counterparts and that too came with a lot of hassle such as getting permissions from the Sports Ministry,Ministry of Home Affairs and other security related issues. The permission letter was sent directly to the Indian Embassy in Pakistan and I,being the organiser,still havent received a copy even after making considerable amounts of visits to government offices, Praveen Bahl,President,PCCAI (Physically Challenged Cricket Association of India,said.
The visible dissent faded away as the match commenced. Bahl recalled how the correspondence with the Pakistani counterpart began. Abbasji and I connected through the internet two years ago. The idea was to give the physically handicapped and disabled persons an outlet,an opportunity to nurture and showcase their talent. Cricket happened to be that vehicle of change, Bahl said.
The initiative had to start somewhere. We met in June 2012 and played some matches,said Abbas Hashmi,Chairman,Pakistan Cricket Association for the Physically Handicapped (PCAPH).
The players were often considered unwanted by their families,and some even forced into beggary,both say. We went on a talent hunt from Khyber Pass to Lahore,Karachi to Peshawar till we constituted a team between 2006 and 2009. Bahl saab was doing the same in India and we thought why not come together and do something for these people who are often discriminated against, Hashmi said.
Fark sirf ek kheechi hui border line ka hain,zubaan libaas ek hai,bas mulk hi do hain,bas kuch taakatein hain jo ek doosron ko ladaana chahte hain. (The only difference between the two countries is a line that has been drawn at the border. We speak the same language,wear the same clothes. There are some forces who are trying to destroy this relationship), Hashmi said. As he spoke,one of the Pakistani players hit a six,which was followed by a song Chak de India. The officials exchanged a hearty laugh. It doesnt matter which song,as long as it has a good tune, Hashmi said.
The Indian team won by 22 runs. But more than the win,it was the success of the event that made everyone smile.
Everyone thought it was impossible. But we made it happen. The next step is to organize an Asia Cup for these youngsters, Bahl said.
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