13-Year-Old Daily Wager, Daughter Of Farmer Part Of First-Ever Indian Women's Blind Cricket Team
Men's cricket for the blind has been staged for more than two decades and the women's game has finally seen the light of day.
A 13-year-old bricklayer from Odisha and a farmer's daughter who lost vision in the right eye while playing with wooden arrows are a part of the first-ever Indian women's cricket team for the blind. Most of the team members come from humble and varied backgrounds and their first flight out of India to play a T20 series in Nepal next week could well be life-changing. Men's cricket for the blind has been staged for more than two decades and the women's game has finally seen the light of day.
For 20-year-old Sushma Patel, who will captain the side in the five games, life has already taken an "incredible" turn two years after she picked up the game.
Growing up in a remote village of Damoh district in Madhya Pradesh, Sushma and her three brothers used to play a lot with teer kaman (bows and arrows), inspired by what they had seen in the TV series Ramayan. That hobby resulted in a tragedy as one of the arrows pierced her right eye, leaving her partially blind.
"I was six when that happened. I can only see with my left eye but my vision is deteriorating. For a long time, I did not know what I would be doing with my life after that incident but cricket has offered me a lifeline.
"It is a dream come true that I will get to lead India. My father wanted my brothers to play cricket but now he is proud that I have realised his dream. "Neighbours in my village remain narrow minded and still don't approve of me playing the game but I will prove all of them wrong," Sushma, who is among the main batters in the side, told PTI.
The team comprises players with varied vision. Six fall in the B1 category (totally blind), five in the B2 category (who have vision of up to two metres) and six in the B3 category (who have vision of up to six metres).
Sushma is in the B3 class and giving her company in Nepal would be 13-year-old all-rounder Jhili Birua, who is an orphan and could be found working at a construction site for Rs 250 a day to make ends meet.
Despite the hardships she has had to face at a young age, Jhili doesn't have a care in the world and hopes cricket leads to a better life.
"I had to leave school as I did not have the required documents for enrolment. Now I do daily labour jobs in the day and play cricket in the evening," said Jhili, who lost her mother when she was three years old and father met with a fatal accident in 2020.
She hails from a village in Ganjam district in Odisha and was among 38 cricketers who were picked for a training camp in Bhopal before making the cut for the Indian team. While her captain Sushma is a Mahendra Singh Dhoni fan, Jhili idolises Virat Kohli.
"It will be another dream-come-true moment if we get to meet them," said the two while standing with the rest of the teammates.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)