More than winning or losing, the children were enthusiastic about playing. Nobody had to really tell them the rules; they knew it all!
Aadi, the erstwhile Spastic Society of Northern India, organised a cricket tournament, Sath Sath Khel 2003, in collaboration with St Mary's School, Father Agnel School, General Raj Public School and Laxman Public School, which was inaugurated by Former RBI Governor and MP Dr Bimal Jalan. The idea behind the tournament, played from November 14 to 16, was to promote equity in sports.
This was the first time integrated cricket matches took place in India, where boys and girls with hearing impairment, visual impairment, orthopaedic impairment and psychiatric disability played along with non-disabled children.
So far there have been special cricket matches played only by visually impaired people, which have gained popularity over the years.
"In India, there is no provision for a disabled person to visit a stadium and watch a match, let alone play one. We should raise the issue of disability sports with Department of Sports with the Ministry of Human Resource and Development," said Javed Abidi, Executive Director of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and Convener of Disability Rights Group.
Speaking on the occasion, Aadi Executive Director G. Shyamala said, "We need to march ahead and to look into the theme of inclusion."
The match was played with a tennis ball, between teams of 11 players comprising a minimum of four disabled players, a maximum of four non-disabled players and three girl players.
Although India is an otherwise cricket crazy nation, it is yet to make its mark in integrated matches. Aadi's efforts provide reassurance that this lacuna will be addressed.