For the last eight days, Prashant Japtap has been training eight of his college mates to play cricket. But Japtap is partially sighted and was gearing his team — visually challenged and sighted students — on for an inter-collegiate cricket tournament.
His efforts paid off.
On Tuesday, the cricket team of Ruia College won the first match against St Xavier’s College.
Organised over four days — till January 30 — by the Xavier’s Resource Centre for Visually Challenged (XRCVC), the tournament comprised mixed teams of sighted and visually challenged students from St Xavier’s, Ruia and SIES colleges.
“We used to practice for three hours after college. A mixed tournament at the college level works because it creates awareness. But it also dilutes our show of capability on the field. We too can do everything,” said Jagtap, a class 12 student who also participates in cricket tournaments for the visually challenged at the national level.
“I am an all rounder,” he said with pride.
So the tournament had all the elements of a one-day cricket match — running commentary, cheering crowd and spirited teams. The manner in which they played was different — and so was the ball.
With nine members in the team — five completely visually challenged, two with partial or row vision and two sighted, there were ten overs played on each side. Instead of a regular ball, a rattle ball filled with ball bearing was bowled.
Before bowling, the visually challenged student would touch the stump so as to be sure that the ball is thrown in a straight line. Once hit, the sound of the rattle ball would help the fielder to gauge the direction, speed and distance of the ball. Both the sighted and non-sighted performed all the three functions of bowling, batting and fielding.
“The tournament holds dual purpose. Through the match, in the most subtle and powerful message of ‘they do everything that the sighted do, they just do it differently!’ gets communicated,” said Professor Sam Taraporevala, XRCVC director adding that it also spreads awareness among other students to break commonly held misconceptions in the minds of the sighted.”
Solomon Jeyaraj, first year student of St Xavier’s College was part of the tournament. “While it can get tough to coordinate on the field, it was good fun. If the visually challenged can play cricket, they can play other games too. After all, they lack only one sense. Everything else is normal,” said the 17-year-old.