Pride on the pitch

AKM Moinuddin
Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Cricket is the second-most popular sport in the world, with an estimated fan following of 2.5 billion people, with most of them coming from Asia, Australia and the UK. Generally, any sport is viewed as a game for those who are physically able. But the passion for the game goes much beyond physical ability, as does the pride of playing for the national team.


In most cases, people having disabilities are neglected in society but some of them are ready to show their talents on the global stage through the first-ever five-nation international cricket tournament to be held for them, that took place in Bangladesh on September 2-10. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in close partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) and Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan (BKSP) will host the tournament titled ‘ICRC International T20 Cricket Tournament’ for people with physical disabilities. The participating countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, England, India and Pakistan.


Players from the five countries will be there for the love of the game, and more importantly, they will be there to prove that they are no different from the players who are physically able. People with physical disabilities often face societal barriers, evoking negative perceptions and discrimination. They are stigmatized and are generally excluded from education, employment and community life which deprives them of opportunities essential to their social development, health and well-being. They are often considered dependent and seen as incapable.


Sport, in this regard, helps reduce the stigma and discrimination because it can transform community attitudes about persons with disabilities by highlighting their skills and aptitudes, eventually highlighting the person rather than his/her disability. Engaging in sports, in turn, allows people with disability to get an opportunity to be as active as non-disabled people. In addition, the rehabilitative impact of being involved in a sport – physically and psychologically – is immeasurable.


The opening match between Bangladesh vs England will take place at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium on September 2 and the remaining T20 matches and the closing ceremony will be held at the BKSP.


“There should be no barrier to people living with disability to play and enjoy the most popular sports in Bangladesh which is cricket,” Head of Delegation, ICRC, Christine Cipolla told Dhaka Courier.  She said ICRC is very thankful for the continued support that they have received from the Ministry of Youth and Sports, BCB and BKSP academy.


Mashrafe Bin Mortaza, captain of Bangladesh National Cricket Team, is already associated with this tournament as the Brand Ambassador to endorse the BCB Physically Challenged Cricket Team and thus, promote the social inclusion of People with Disabilities (PwDs) through sports participation. Game Education Administrator of BCB M Rashed Iqbal said he has seen some talented players who could perform very well in the future. “It doesn’t seem that they’re people with disabilities, but they’ve ability to perform.”


Aupurba, an all-rounder of Bangladesh team, said they would be able to bring positive results for Bangladesh if they could play at their best abilities. “Pray for us, success will hopefully be there.”


Shawon, a right-hand pacer said, “Once I was neglected and not given a chance to play with my friends. Had I been given a chance to play, I would have been able to prove my ability. Today, I think I can bowl well.”


He said one hand is enough to bowl well but it is challenging.  “We can show we can play,” an exciting spinner of Bangladesh team  Sanaullah said.


ICRC Communication Delegate Michael Kifle said people with physical disabilities often face societal barriers, evoking negative perceptions and discrimination. In Bangladesh, cricket is a recognized torchbearer at national and international level where cricket is mostly played by the able bodied players. In order to promote and support sport activities for physically disabled persons in Bangladesh, the ICRC has undertaken the initiative, said Michael Kifle.


For 2016, the ICRC Bangladesh is planning similar cricket activities for PwPDs as held in 2015 and possibly a new International Tournament, hopefully attended by more physically disabled / challenged cricket teams from other nations.


However, the ICRC and the five other participating teams are all focusing on the 2015 ICRC Cricket Tournament for People with Physical Disabilities.  In 2013, the ICRC supported the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP) with the creation of a cricket team for physically disabled people to play against the Disabled Sporting Society (DSS) of India.


Similarly again in 2013, the ICRC supported the CRP Savar in organising a three-day Indo-Bangla Physical Disabled Cricket Tournament, which was held from 17- 20 March in Bangladesh, between the Disabled Sporting Society of India and the CRP Disabled Cricket Team.


In 2014, CRP Cricket team for Physical Disabled Persons, Bangladesh Physical Challenged Disabled Association, and Physically-challenged Development Foundation (PDF) took initiatives to promote cricket for physically disabled persons. Throughout 2014, the ICRC held broad discussions with the Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishtan (BKSP), the Paralympics, the Special Olympics and the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB).


In November 2014, the ICRC facilitated the first ever national seminar on Cricket for Physically Disabled Persons and training workshop for the disabled players and coaches held in cooperation with the Bangladesh Cricket Board, the British High Commission and the England and Wales Cricket Board.


Disabled cricketers, coaches, officials, physiotherapists and other interested persons learned about cricket for people with disabilities. Mr. Ian Martin, Head of Disability Cricket at England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) facilitated the two-day long workshop.


In February 2015 five top most academic institutions created and supervised by Physically-Challenged Development Foundation (PDF) and Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed (CRP) received from the ICRC equipment required for playing cricket. In March 2015 the ICRC organized a Talent Hunt Camp to identify 26 physically disabled cricketers among 149 participants to participate and represent Bangladesh in a 5-nation international tournament.

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