Everything that we know of, everything that we see in today’s world has been split into essential and non-essential in this pandemic situation. The unfortunate fate of sports comes under the non-essential entity which is an essential axis of livelihood for many aspiring players. And the plight of physically challenged cricket players in India is the representation of the ordeal of people whose dreams are crushed and their aspirations are chucked out.
Mr Ravi Chauhan, Secretary-General, Physically Challenged Cricket Association of India, opens up about the condition of the physically challenged cricket players in India.
It is a difficult time right now. How are the players taking care of themselves during the lockdown?
Life, for a Physically challenged player, is very tough in India. There is absolutely no road or system in place for many challenged Cricketers who dream big to play for their country. Even when they pursue their dream to become the players they want to be, they are not offered the required infrastructure or sponsorship enough to go on. With their sheer determination and passion for the game, these players continue to play. But now, this COVID19 pandemic situation has put a halt on all sports and these players have no way to pursue their dream.
They get offered very little amount from the tournaments they play but those are stopped now. They couldn’t get themselves into menial labour for their livelihood because of their disability and that’s straining their life very much. It’s a very tough time. In a world, where the able-bodied players are struggling for survival, the hardships of the disabled players have increased many folds. They are somehow surviving. Some may never again be able to play cricket in their life due to the impact of COVID19 pandemic.
We heard that former Australian cricketer Steve Waugh’s manager volunteered to help?
Yes, Harley Medcalf (Managing Director of Duet Entertainment and Sport) loved every minute of his interaction with India’s physically challenged cricketers (PCCAI organisation) during his trip to India with Steve Waugh AO (former Australian Cricketer, one of the most recognized and respected players in the world) in January this year. They were blown away by the most amazing talented players. He then initiated to raise AUD $10,000 to help 100 players of Physically Challenged Cricket Association of India (PCCAI) through the COVID-19 pandemic as the first target. With the support of Steve Waugh, we raised decent funds and we’re looking for more community support.
During this time, he was introduced to Mr Anand Chukka, Founder and Event Director (ICCL Cricketainment) by Praveen Nalla (Co-Founder-Managing Director, Piggy Smalls Australia). I just would like to call it destiny. Within a short span of time, the target of supporting 100 Players was achieved through partnership with ICCL Cricketainment. Mr Harley has given new, fresh hope and honoured us greatly. With ICCL Cricketainment coming on board to support these players in the partnership, the association and the players are delighted that International support is coming for their aide. These talented players have been encouraged to continue to do what they are good at. There is indeed a light at the end of every tunnel.
The overall aim is to support 400 physically challenged cricketers. With the resources quickly running out, the help and support provided by Mr Harley, Mr Anand Chukka and Mr Parveen Nalla have come to us when we most need it. It’s a real godsend. But we aim to help these players as long as they need it and not just for a day, a week or a month. We committed ourselves here for the betterment of these physically challenged cricketers for their entire life. We request BCCI to show its large heart and take Differently-Abled Cricket under their umbrella as per the guidelines of Hon’ble Supreme Court.
Have you reached out to BCCI for any help from them?
It is often said that there is darkness right beneath the lamp which is the source of light. We have given presentations to BCCI many times about forming a definite policy for Differently-Abled Cricket and to take it under its wings. Even the Lodha Committee, formed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, has recommended forming such a policy. Moreover, the new constitution, that’s adopted by BCCI and other state associations as per the guidelines of the Supreme Court mandates forming of a Differently-Abled Committee. But it seems that Differently-Abled Cricket is not a priority to BCCI. We have absolutely received no help from them. Sadly, countries like England, Afghanistan have Disability wing for physically challenged cricket players but in India, no one cares.
Going forward, after pandemic, there will be changes in the way we approach to cricket. How things will change right after lockdown?
Things will have definitely changed. The freedom and the carefree attitude that we take towards our health will change. It will be very difficult to get sponsors for our Cricket as much of the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) money has been diverted to fight COVID19 Pandemic. It will be tough to retain players and motivate them to keep their hopes high since only God knows when they will be back on the field. I don’t think our difficulties will end even if the Pandemic ends.
Images courtesy: Ravi Chauhan