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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Opinion| ICC World Cup and challenges for fans with visual disabilities

As cricket has a huge following among the people with visual disabilities in the country, it’s time to take some measures.

opinion Updated: May 31, 2019 14:06 IST
George Abraham
George Abraham
Hindustan Times, Delhi
The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy showcased during an event.
The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy showcased during an event.(REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte)
         

The long awaited 2019 Cricket World Cup has arrived. The Indians begin their campaign against South Africa on June 5 at The Rose Bowl, Southampton. As far as India is concerned, the World Cup is the biggest sporting event. Now that the Lok Sabha Election results have been announced, the focus of the nation will shift to cricket for the next month or so. Every Indian cricket fan will be closely following the fortunes of Kohli and his men in blue. The persisting question on everyone’s mind is whether this Indian team can repeat what Kapil Dev’s team achieved 36 years ago.

Most fans will catch the action on television, websites, mobile apps and newspapers. Has it occurred to anyone how the average visually-impaired cricket fan would follow this mega event? I have received a number of calls from across the country enquiring if the World Cup commentaries would be available on All India Radio (AIR). As of last evening, the answer is “Do not know”. If this does not change it would be tragic.

Cricket has a huge following among the visually challenged population in the country. If you were to visit a school for the blind during an international cricket match, you would find visually-impaired students huddled together listening to the radio commentary. In phone-in programmes on AIR like ‘Anumanon ke Aaine Main’ and ‘Kaun Banega Vijeta’ which are aired either before or during breaks in the game, a large number of calls are received from blind listeners. In fact, the level of passion and involvement is so great that they have improvised a form of the game using sound. Blind Cricket which started even before Bradman is played at a global level today.

It was radio that connected blind people with cricket in the 1950s and 1960s. The ball by ball running commentaries delivered in the voices of legends like Vijay Merchant, Anant Setalwad, Devraj Puri, Jasdev Singh, Sushil Doshi and others transmitted the excitement and romance of the sport to every home in the country. Even after the advent of television, radio commentaries continue to thrill blind cricket fans to this day.

Of course, the Star Sports network will be covering the entire event. The television commentators do make for interesting listening; however, the details on the action are very often lost. For instance, when a wicket falls and a new batsman walks in, many a time the commentators don’t mention the name of the player who has come in. A lot of trivia and statistical information is shared on the screen in graphics which isn’t always read out. As a blind viewer, one misses out on a fair bit of action on the screen. I believe the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) is what it is today because of its massive fan following and they must prioritise needs of the cricket fans over commercial interests.

George Abraham is a disability activist, an inspirational speaker and the CEO of Score Foundation.

The views expressed are personal.