New Delhi: Set to be conferred with the Padma Shri award, former Indian blind cricket team captain Shekhar Naik on Friday urged the BCCI to grant affiliation to the Cricket Association for Blind in India.
“It is high time that the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) should recognise the efforts of blind cricket and give it affiliation. We have won two World Cups and the boys’ hard work and dedication need to be recognised,” Naik, who was named for Padma Shri on Wednesday, said.
“Cricket boards of other countries like Australia, South Africa, England, Pakistan and even smaller nations have already recognised their blind cricket. BCCI, which is the richest Board in the world, should do the same,” he added. The 30-year-old, who captained India to victories at the T20 Blind Cricket World Cup in 2012 and 2014 editions, also asked for a similar kind of facilities for the blind that the normal cricketers get.
“The blind cricketers put in as much effort as the normal cricketers, so we should be getting the same kind of facilities that Indian cricket team members get. We should get more sponsorship. I also urge the corporates to come forward and support us,” said Naik ahead of the T20 World Cup Cricket for the Blind, scheduled to commence on January 30. Even as the 17-member Indian team led by Ajay Kumar Reddy gears up for the mega-event, Naik said he was confident that the youngsters will win the trophy again for the country.
“They have been practicing hard and putting in a lot of effort. I am sure they lift the title again and make the country proud. I am happy to do my bit by encouraging them to give their 100 per cent. I hope that my Padma Shri would further motivate them to do well,” said Naik. For the first time, the World Cup matches will take place in multiple cities across India and will be played in some of best grounds like the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru.
“This time the teams would be playing on some of the best grounds in the country. I would like to thank the state governments for providing the grounds,” said Naik, who released the Blind Anthem for T20 World Cup. Having represented India in 82 matches, Naik said because of his disability, he got the coveted Padma Shri.
“Blindness is what gave me opportunities. It was not easy as I was born blind and had to overcome all odds. But now I feel it is a God’s gift as I got a chance to represent my country by playing cricket,” Naik said.
Ten teams — hosts India, South Africa, Australia, England, New Zealand, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal — will fight it out for the title, with the final slated for February 12. The matches will be played in Delhi, Faridabad, Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, Vijaywada, Hyderabad, Indore, Anantpur and Bhubaneswar.
“We have covered all aspects of game while practicing, which included practicing on swinging, flat and bouncy wickets. However, we are not underestimating any team. We will take each day as it comes and play to our fullest ability,” said captain Reddy.
Rahul Dravid is the official brand ambassador for the upcoming tournament, while Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Lokesh Rahul, Umesh Yadav, Gautam Gambhir have come forward to support and promote blind cricket.