Cricket training programme for visually impaired women, girls launched in Delhi

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New Delhi, Jul 9 (PTI) A new training programme for visually impaired women and girls was launched in Delhi on Tuesday, aiming to train 50 participants in cricket over three months.

The programme was launched at the Constitution Club of India in the presence of Philip Green OAM, Australia's High Commissioner to India, Meenakshi Lekhi, Former Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture and Yogesh Taneja, President of the Cricket Association for the Blind in Delhi.

The initiative is a collaboration between the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI), and the Cricket Association for the Blind in Delhi (CABD).

The programme focuses on coaching blind cricket and providing vocational training to enhance digital and financial literacy, including soft skills, computer skills, and life skills, said Yogesh Taneja, President of the Cricket Association for the Blind in Delhi.

"I started playing cricket two years ago (in 2022), and last year I participated in international matches. I have played with Nepal twice", said Shemoo Das (22), a visually impaired cricket player from Assam, while sharing her journey with PTI.

Recalling her early journey, Das said, "In the beginning, I used to fill water bottles with marbles so that I could hear the sound and understand where the ball was coming from. During that time, my mother supported me a lot, even though I have an elder brother who is blind and cannot speak. My mother took care of everything and supported me through everything." Shikha Shetty, the coach, highlighted the challenges of training visually impaired athletes with PTI.

"Since 2019, I have been training blind kids. The most difficult part is persuading families from lower backgrounds to allow their girls to come to the field. When families are reluctant to send them outside the city, we first have to convince them. Mentally and physically training them is another challenge," Shetty said.

"With these kids, we haven't faced many problems because they have reached an international level now," Shetty said.

"In my 10 years of coaching experience, we identify players when they first play in front of us. We gauge their potential during play and then focus more on their training with interest and patience." Addressing their condition, another coach said, "As normal people, when we encounter someone blind, we sympathise with them. However, they don't need sympathy, they need motivation. They have grown up in this condition, so they have already developed ways to understand things and possess a heightened sense compared to others. They perceive the world differently from us." She added, "Training them takes extra time due to their challenges, but with practice, they learn to overcome difficulties like not seeing the direction of the ball being thrown." Esther (18), another visually impaired cricket player from Andhra Pradesh, said, "My family has supported me a lot. My brother inspired me to play cricket and asked me to start practising in seventh grade. I have played with Nepal twice, and we have been in the semi-final also." She has three younger brothers, she said.

During the ceremony, Philip Green said, "The Australian Government believes in supporting all people to fulfil their potential and is committed to advancing gender equality and the rights of people with disabilities." "I am very pleased to be working with our Indian cricket partners to promote sports as a means to create a safe, welcoming and empowering space for women and girls," he said.

Meenakshi Lekhi emphasised the importance of resilience, reflection, and relationships (RRR) in fostering long-term success and growth at an event.

Reflecting on India's recent triumph in the 2024 T20 World Cup, she praised the participants for their resilience and celebrated their remarkable performances as a testament to their inner strength.

The Indian women's blind cricket team won the gold medal at the IBSA World Games on August 26 last year by defeating Australia in the finals by 9 wickets. PTI NSM HIG HIG

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