Deepak Kumar can bowl quick. Hitting the deck and making the ball rise repeatedly makes this five-feet tall cricketer invaluable to his team from Madhya Pradesh. His bowling hardly betrays his intellectual disability that has left the 23-year-old with an IQ of just 70.
Deepak, son of a railway mechanic from Jabalpur, is taking part in a five-day international cricket tournament in the capital. "I am an all-rounder, though my bowling is slightly better than my batting. The faster I bowl, the more wickets I take," he says as he flaunts his shiny white sneakers. His family of seven relies on Rs 3000 per month that his father earns. It is just three times the cost of his shoes.
His coach though, can barely describe the excitement among his wards. "The team is extremely happy with the gear that has been provided (by the organisers). Deepak is especially happy, since he has played most of his cricket in rubber sandals. The gesture and the event are great for the development of mentally challenged children," says Rakesh Sharma who has been a coach-cum-mentor to intellectually disabled children for 11 years.
Organised by the Special Olympics at Palam Air Force Sports Complex, the event also features teams from Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Nepal. It is a novel way of encouraging the intellectually disabled - children.
"These children have very little mental capabilities. Therefore the best way to support them is to engage them in sports," says Abhilash Mehra, a volunteer with a NGO. Agrees Arshad Javed, an official with the Pakistan contingent. "This is my sixth visit with the team to India and with every visit, I have noticed a visible change in the children. The objective is obviously their development through participation."
The development is definitely visible as Deepak compares his score with that of his fellow players - ably matching the numbers on the scoreboard. Much like an 'average' teenager, his smile gives away a passion for the sport that is cricket.