Playing against Pakistan will be very exciting’: Members of Indian Wheelchair Cricket team from Lucknow


It is a proud moment for Lucknowites as three players from the city have been selected to represent India in a T-20 cricket series to be played against Pakistan in United Arab Emirates. The trio — Somjeet Singh, Irfan Haider and Anmol Vashisht– are part of the Uttar Pradesh Wheelchair Cricket Association and will be playing in the five-day Wheelchair Cricket Series against Pakistan, that begins today, and will be vying for the Friendship Cup. An excited Somjeet, who’s also the captain of the team, just before leaving for the UAE, tell us, “We are trying our best so that we can bring home the cup. Moreover, we are also trying hard because the expectations from us have increased as recently we won a match against Bangladesh. As the captain and a batsman, I have a lot of pressure and responsibilities on me.” Nervous about playing against Pakistan, the 21 year-old says, “This time our match is against Pakistan, and India and Pakistan match is always a much talked about one. So mind main woh ek pressure pehle se hi build up ho gaya hai. We cannot forget that Pakistan is the founder of the wheelchair cricket and they have been playing for a very long time so their preparation is always way ahead of ours. So we have a tough competition ahead of us, but I’m sure we will emerge winners.”

Somjeet Singh (BCCL/ Aditya Yadav)
As for Irfan, a fast bowler, this will be his first match against the neighbouring country. “I have never had a chance to play against Pakistan, unlike some players of our team who had the privilege of playing against them in Malaysia in 2016. So understanding their style of playing is really tough for us at the moment. Currently, we can just improve upon our basic and just go with our inner conscious. Mann main ek josh hai that no matter what, we want to defeat Pakistan and come out victorious,” says the 20 year-old with a smile, adding, “Also the excitement in us to play against Pakistan has increased because once, when I was surfing the net, on one of the social media sites I read in a comment that the best team in wheelchair cricket is the Pakistani team. So playing against them will be very exciting.”
Talking about the challenges and hardships that these players have faced in the few years that they have taken up the game, Somjeet says, “The main challenges that we face is regarding wheelchairs. Some players cannot afford to purchase good wheelchairs. So because of that the speed and momentum of the game gets affected. Secondly, when you see some of the international cricket players, they are there on the teams on contractual basis which gives them the privilege of proper playing kits. Jaise hamare kuch players hain. They get some kind of help from their own states, but in Uttar Pradesh there are some manufacturers who even deny providing us with good sports kits.”

Irfan Haider and inset Anmol Vashisht (BCCL/ Aditya Yadav)
Sharing one such incident Somjeet tells us, “Recently one of the manufacturers from Lucknow refused to provide me with a proper cricket gear kit saying that he doesn’t sponsor or provide kits to players like us. He said, ‘instead we provide kits to international players’. When I told him that I also play international level cricket, he just offered to give me a discount. So this mentality of taking our game so casually is the biggest challenge for us.” While Irfan on the other hand believes that the basic amenities that a player needs is one reason which somewhere helps to win a match. “We are not demanding much and I think a wheelchair is one thing which is very important in our game as well as for a player. Can the state not provide us with one? Everyone wants to see us emerge winners but providing us with basic stuff is never given a thought,” he avers.
Disappointed with the treatment meted out to them by the state, the young players say that there is no aid provided to them by the UP government and that is what is proving to be the biggest disadvantage for them. “The state is giving us no aid regarding anything. Even when we defeated Bangladesh in a cricket tournament in 2016, we got a very grand welcome in Delhi where Arvind Kejriwal, the CM greeted us. Pranab Mukherjee, former President of India, also invited and feted us a few days after we landed in India. But our chief minister never acknowledged our win. Hamari government ne toh hamein poochha tak nahi. This attitude really hurts us and somewhere demotivates us also. There were four players from Lucknow in the team at that time, and we were expecting a grand welcome in Lucknow from our government. But when nothing happened, we really felt sad. This somewhere makes us realize our disability,” says Somjeet.

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