Meet the man behind a unique cricket academy for the differently abled

Suvro Joarder, who lost a leg to a biking accident 10 years ago, has built a career in the sport nonetheless, and is now holding the door open so others can do so too.
Joarder, 32, is currently captain of the differently-abled Indian cricket team. His academy, Straight Drive, is being set up with help from the Cricket Association of Bengal, among others.
Joarder, 32, is currently captain of the differently-abled Indian cricket team. His academy, Straight Drive, is being set up with help from the Cricket Association of Bengal, among others.
Updated on Oct 30, 2020 08:21 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByVanessa Viegas

Suvro Joarder knows what it’s like to be deprived of a fair chance. In 2008, when he was playing league cricket under the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), he lost his right leg following a motorcycle accident. His chance at a cricketing career vanished overnight.

“I didn’t know where my life would go from there,” he says.

A decade on, Suvro, 34, has set numerous records. He is currently captain of the differently-abled Indian cricket team, which is run by the DCCBI (Divyang Cricket Control Board of India). He has played in 37 T20Is in the last five years. In 2019, he became the first differently abled cricketer to play in the Cricket Association of Bengal’s regular league.

Backed by then CAB president Sourav Ganguly and then joint secretary Avishek Dalmiya, an ICC law was amended to make it possible for Joarder to play second division league with a substitute runner. Because of his metal prosthetic limb, he’s come to be known as the world’s first blade cricketer.

His next step, he decided, would be to hold the door open so others could walk through it too. “Differently abled cricketers don’t get proper practice sessions or proper guidance. Regular coaching centres are reluctant to enrol people with disabilities. There is a mental block, a certain kind fear that disabled players will get injured during practise. I wanted to change that,” he says.

So, in 2016, he set up the Cricket Association for Physically Challenged Bengal. “The CAPCB has played three national tournaments and won the 2018-19 National championship held in Agra.” Starting out with 16 teams, CAPCB made it to the finals against the UP Physically Challenged team, and beat them by 20 runs.

“It was then that the enquiries started pouring in. People from all over the country wanted to join the team,” Joarder says.

So he decided to step it up — with a cricket academy for the differently abled. The first brick of this three-year long dreams was laid last year, after Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim allotted a small plot to the academy.

Joarder has named it Straight Drive. It will be open to the blind, deaf and physically challenged.

Adjacent to the plot is a cricket ground that will be let out to the academy for practice. “It will be like a regular cricket coaching centre, but with coaches well-versed in dealing with physically disabled players. If all goes well, the academy will open in December,” Joarder says.

Setting it up will cost an estimated Rs 12 lakh, but help has come in many forms. He’s received Rs 4 lakh as a donation from AK Chandra, the owner of PC Chandra Jewellers. Support has also come from the CAB.

“I plan to help with the annual lease fee of Rs 21,000,” says CAB chief Avishek Dalmiya. “The CAB will help with the preparation of wickets, pitches and coaching by roping in retired disabled players. There is no doubt that this segment has been ignored. Their individual needs are different and need to be respected. Our entire goal is the promotion of cricket and cricketers. So, we want to help.”

Binoy Tirkey, 20, who plays second division cricket and has been training with Joarder for four years, was born with one leg shorter than the other. He says an academy like this makes him hopeful. “People think we are weak, but they’ve never seen us play. We can put up a fight. But we need a camp like this to give us that chance,” he says.

When even our families don’t support us, an academy like this can give wings to our dreams, adds Bicki Singh 22, a second division player who is missing a finger on his right hand. “We need a dedicated camp, coaches that are accommodating. That’s when disabled aspirational cricketers will find a community, a space where they can be players, without any inhibition.”

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021