Living with disabilities has its own trauma. Umer Beigh interacts with a group of deaf and dumb cricketers from Kashmir valley who have met this challenge head-on and defied the tradition by honing their talent, and making their families and the state proud.
They sat on stairs in front of a park in Batamaloo on the outskirts of Srinagar city. It is the place where they usually meet to see each other and share their daily experiences. In the distance, the sun is about to set. These boys are members of Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association of the Deaf.
Many among them wear disappointed looks. They have come from an unfinished, rain-lashed cricket match that they played earlier. For a moment, it seems they are exhausted which has left them with little energy to indulge in conversations. A few minutes of silence, their seniors reach the place. All of them march inside the park where they will discuss strategy for the upcoming matches.
Initially, their demeanor suggests that they are normal boys. But once you spend time with them, one comes to know about their reality. Abdul Rashid Wani, 41, is a local well-wisher of these boys who spends much of his free time with them, “Many people normally say to me why I am so attached with them; what the reason is? I giggle and tell them that I love being in their company. At least, they are not like us who keep hatred and keep on back-biting about others all the time,” he says.
Despite facing many odds, these youth try hard to understand the nuances of leading a normal life. As I enter the park and move closer to the group, I try to communicate with them through signs and gestures. It was a bad try. Mohammad Aslam, 20, a second year student of Arts from Nowhatta, grabbed a pen and scribbled some notes on a piece of paper. The date for the next match has not been decided yet but it could happen next month. Their opponents are from the same association. Once the dates are fixed, a message will be send to both captains.
The two captains then pass on the information through text messages, SMS or by making a phone call through a third person to let the teammates know about the date of the match. All these boys play for various teams under Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association of the Deaf headed by its General Secretary, Mohammad Saleem Wani. Umer Ashraf, 16, a talented all-rounder heads the JK XI-A team while his opponents in JK XI-B will be led by Imran Khan, 27, who hails from old Srinagar city. Few weeks later, the teams will face each other on Kashmir University ground.
On Nov 11 last year, the stage was set for the two teams to slug it out on Kashmir University grounds. It was a bright wintry Sunday, a perfect day for a cricket match. JK XI-B Imran’s team won the toss and elected to bat first. They have already lost the first match. Now, it is a do-or-die situation for them. If they lose this game, they will be out of the tournament. The winning team would play in a national level tournament.
Wearing orange and white color uniforms, more than 30 players are present in the ground. JKXI-A’s in form, right arm pacer, Haroon Ahmad, 21, began the proceedings with the new ball. Muzaffar and Riyaz opened the batting for JKXI-B. They struggled to make a good opening stand. Every time they missed the ball, players in and around the ground clap. Both batsmen leave the ground without making any significant contribution.
In the meantime, JKXI-A’s Tariq Ahmad deceives JKXI-B’s Majid Amin with an out-swinger. The wicketkeeper grabs the ball and looks excited. The umpire is not impressed. It might be difficult for umpires to make such decisions as they can’t hear. Both umpires on ground are deaf and dumb too. The bowling side seeks intervention of a normal umpire who is the third umpire, to take a final call.
JKXI-B finished their innings with a getable score of 101. Both sides retire towards the boundary to take a break. JK XI-A team looks relaxed and determined to chase the low target set by their opponents. Mohammad Yousuf Dar, the head ground-man, who was tasked with acting as third umpire in the game, says these players are amazing. “They have got high potential of playing the game. I was highly impressed with their talent in cricket and I loved to watch the skills and gestures they used while playing,” he said.
As the time came for JKXI-A to start their innings, their young batsmen overcame JKXI-B’s pace attack and showed good temperament with bat. Their captain, Umer’s knock who was accompanied by Tariq, romped home to victory with a round of applause from players sitting on the edge of the boundary. They finished the target with ease and nine wickets in hand. —