On an autumn morning in 1989, as I stood watching the blind kids playing cricket at the NIVH (National Institute for the Visually Handicapped) Dehradun, several ideas and thoughts flashed through my mind. Some were to do with the kind of projects I could take up to promote the game while others had to do with fond memories of my own romantic engagement with the sport. I had made up my mind. The promotion of cricket for the blind was going to be my first project. I realised that the idea was unique, innovative and had tremendous possibilities.
, I was truly witnessing a phenomenon that was special and spectacular. The cricket was serious. The bowling was accurate . and fast. The batting was skillful and efficient. The fielding was fearless and athletic. I was told that these kids woke up in the morning, played cricket. Went for breakfast. Played cricket. Went for classes. Played cricket. Went for lunch. Played cricket. It was a challenge to get them off the field in the evenings. Even bad light could not dampen their urge to play. Such was their passion and commitment to the game. They were big fans of the Indian team and followed every game whether it was a Test match or a 50 over game. When the Indians were on tour in countries like New Zealand and Australia, these kids would set their alarms for as early as 2.30 a.m. to be able to catch the first delivery of the day.
Historically, radio has been an integral part of the lives of blind people across the World. It has been their primary source of information and entertainment. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, both international and domestic cricket was extensively covered on radio. Cricket commentators like John Arlot, Brian Johnston of the BBC Test Match Special, Tony Cozier of the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, Iftikhar Ahmad of Radio Pakistan, Jim Maxwell, Alan McGilvray of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Vijay Merchant, Devraj Puri, Anant Setalvad, Sushil Doshi, Jasdev Singh of All India Radio had become household names. They are all legends of cricket broadcasting who not only described the ball by ball action from the middle but also created an aura and romance around the game.
A game of cricket is like a crime thriller. It has its highs and lows, twists and turns,intrigues and thrills, heroes and villains. Each game has a unique plot that ebbs and flows with unpredictable regularity. No one really knows what the next page has to offer. , Often the final outcome is known only when the final page is turned. Radio commentaries have over the years captured these exciting narratives and have transmited the cricket fever across the globe to fans luring them to a life long addiction to the game. This cricket pandemic did not even spare or discriminate against the blind cricket fan. Blind people across the country were seen playing an improvised form of cricket using empty tins and sticks. It is reported that in Australia the blind people were seen playing the adapted form of the game as far back as 1922 even before the great Don Bradman.
My debut as a cricket fan happened in 1968-69 during the Bombay Test match between Graham Dowling’s New Zealand and Tiger Pataudi’s India. Bedi and Prasanna had spun India to a thrilling win. Cricket was the topic of discussion in the bus, at road side tea shops, and amongst friends in the school. Even some of the teachers joined in the cricket chat. Initially, I wondered how a mere game could take up such a lot of discussion time. Without realising I too happily and willingly became a part of the cricket mania.
When Bill Lawrie’s Australians toured India, my entire family was listening to the radio commentary. The game had finally intruded our home too. Each of us had our cricketing favourite. My mother and I were fans of the stylish left handed Ajit Wadekar, my brother took to the young dashing and diminitive Gundappa Vishvanath who made a century on debut. My father said that his favourite was Ashok Mankad the son of the legendary Vinu Mankad. Cricket became an important part of the Abraham household. Every morning when the newspaper arrived, my mother would read out the sports page first. She would read all the cricket related stories. my brother and I would eagerly listen to the various reports and more often than not the reading session would be followed by a quick postmortam and analysis. .
Friends from the colony joined us as we started playing cricket in the vacant plot next to our house. We began exploring and appreciating the various nuances of the sport. A lot of what we heard on cricket commentaries influenced the way we approached our batting and bowling. The early 1970s saw the emergance of Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson as the spearhead of a formidable Australian pace quartet that blew away opposition batting line ups. In the season of 1971-72, the Rest of the World XI which boasted of stalwarts like Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Tony Greig, Clive Lloyd, Zaheer Abbas and Sunil Gavaskar was blown away by the raw pace of Dennis Lillee for just 58. Lillee taking 8 for 29 in just 7.1 overs. As a young boy just initiated into the game, I was truly fascinated by fast bowling. India had no genuine fast bolwers. I dreamt of becoming a tare away pace bowler like the Ausie duo. I wanted to terrorise the batsman with my pace and bounce. The objective was simply to send the batsman either to the pavilion or the hospital. I guess I could be forgiven for harbouring such violent thoughts. Iwas just a little kid bitten by the cricket bug.
Of course, to my intense disappointment I had to stop playing cricket after a point given my vision impairment. The game was getting dangerous. However my passion for the game never diminished. I continued to follow and enjoy the sport. I firmly believe God was behind the Dehradun trip. In cricket for the blind he had revealed His plans for me. He was beckoning to the fast bowler in me asking me to get back to the top of my run up. He was giving me an opportunity to make my contribution to cricket on my terms.
God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me
He will be my guide
Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way
God will make a way
30 replies on “Rousing of the Tiger”
I don’t mind even if my name and email id is published George; Here are my comments as a cricket connoisseur…the essence of your passion for the game has been very well captured in this piece. You are forgiven for the aggro shown by you when, as a kid, you said…’the objective was to send the batsman either back to the pavilion or to the hospital’. I still don’t support such bodyline or bodycracking bowling. I would have liked a mention of that great knock of 254 not out by the legendary Sir Gary Sobers at MCG, an innings still rated as probably the best played in MCG, after the complete annihilation by Lillie at Perth (8 for 29) though I reckon that innings would have been a but out of context. Happy more such writings. Murli
Agreed, the MCG innings from the master is definitely right out of the top draw. As a kid however it was Lillee who caught my attention. Two great cricketers of our times.
This is so detailed; you lived every memory of the times of cricket. Although I am not a big fan of any sport; like in watching; I had the opportunity to meet with some of the print disabled “Indian” cricket players and it was on my office campus. It was so exciting to be there to witness it first hand and I was filled with a sense of proudness, acknowledging the fact that they lived their dream despite their disability. I did try to play with them but was a gonner since I never experienced such a game in my life. Thank you for sharing, the article was really insightful, inspirational, motivating and educating. Where there is a will there is a way!
What I did with cricket was purely an act of passion. I enjoyed it. The impact has been wonderful. Power to the team carrying the baton forward.
I find that all the roaring and passion has been turned towards helping the other visually impaired in the country while still enjoying the game of cricket and commenting on it nicely
Kudos to your passion in sports as well as in charity ??????
Kind words indeed Sir!
Good evening sir, it has come out splendidly it’s quite superb even in this great going of blind cricket we really obliged to you it has changed the entire complexion of the lives of many people including me and Cricket is one of the fantastic medium to bridge to anywhere plan to all. Now blind cricket has reached in the sublime I express sincere love and gratitude to you to set out the I can proudly say Blind cricket gives a huge respect and identity in the society I am really enjoying it, being the blind cricket development director Asia region to world blind cricket Ltd and senior vice president cricket Association for the Blind in India More than that working as a teacher of English in a government higher secondary all those achievements just because of blind cricket, are you really through The light with blind cricket in our community, we will definitely keep the momentum going I believe it will go from generation to generation. Thank you sir God bless you Hi remember always
Good to hear! I am sure blind cricket is in good hands. The future looks well.
This made for fantastic reading George. Would have loved to read the part about how you went about turning your dream into a reality – maybe that’s the next one you are going to write? Looking forward
Glad you like the post. These are early inputs towards my attempts to write my life story. Yes, there is a lot more to come as we go along. Would be nice if you could stay with the narrative as I tell my story post by post.
loved your article. brought nostalgic memories.
Enjoyed writing it. Will be sharing more of these each week.
Hi George, I really enjoyed reading the post. Hats off to your passion, persistence and amazing contributions. Looking forward to your future posts on your life story.
Thanks Sunil for those encouraging words. Should be coming up with the next post in a week’s time. Do read, comment and share if you feel like
I am not an ardent fan of Cricket. IN my college days I played Hockey and tennis. Your testimony of how God guided you to help many blind children is humbling. May God continue to bless you in your endure. I am happy and blessed that I could be a small part of this.
Thanks very much for your kind words. Please continue visiting the site and reading my blog. I believe it is time to share how the Lord has lead me over the years.
great start! i am sure your life story will be inspirational
The idea is to keep on writing. Looking forward to my next piece. Thanks very much for reading.
What a wonderful commentary and what ease of language. What a lovely story of the inspiration behind your project on cricket for the blind.
You should definitely consider writing a book!
As the poet once said, “Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land.” The idea is to document life piece by piece. God willing, one day a book might emerge. Thanks for visiting . Appreciate your comments. Do continue to read the narratives that I put out in the weeks to come.
I enjoyed reading your piece. Thank you for sharing your passion and helping the blind achieve their dreams. Supriya
Glad you liked it. God willing I should be continuing with the story with weekly episodes. Hope you would continue following the narrative.
I loved this and I look forward to reading more…
God willing, I will be sharing a post each week. The story will continue.
Lovely read George! Reminded me of a video of a blind villager who did not know English but would give out cricket commentary like professionals due to his sheer love for cricket and listening to radio commentaries during matches. I can still locate that video somewhere and it resonates so much with what you wrote.
Sir, what a well knit comprehensive piece – Thanks for heeding to your vision that led to the inception of Cricket for the blind. He sure does make a way when there is none. Your writings are a visual treat. Keep them coming Sir.
Sure, that is the wish.
A splendid band-stand view of cricket which unfortunately was not captured in video as perhaps cameras for shooting were only for Films. I guess the fact that Gary went on to score the double ton could be because he was Sober(s).
There have been some spectacular knocks from great batsmen from the past which have not been captured on camera. Sobers double is certainly one of them.