Not all of them can see. In fact, barely can they see. Yet, that doesn’t act as an impediment to their vision of playing like one, akin to a unifying spirit. There are Cricket teams that win. There are cricket teams that lose. And then, there’s the Blind Cricket South Africa; a team that stays true to the spirit of the Madiba-land.
A team that upholds the unwavering spirit of what is meant by the Protea Fire, going all out in the pursuit of excellence and in the demonstration of passion.
They did just that in a cricket tournament that deserved to make more headlines than it did in 2022: the T20 World Cup for the Blind.
Something that was quite evident all December 2022 from the onset of the moment where I stood next to the South African dugout at the Saket Sports complex in New Delhi.
Truth be told, it became a place that while being in midst of a live cricket match seemed like a musical congregation.
A place where live singing- not rabble rousing- took place in midst of a World Cup cricket match.
It was akin to an enthralling saga, albeit one ensuing during the contest against the mighty Australians, where prior to the match and after it, one thing didn’t change.
It was the singing of the closely-knit members of the Blind Cricket South Africa team that in a tone apparently Afrikaner rejoiced and cheered on in an apparent display of team spirit.
I cannot ever recollect the lyrics but Khalala told me that it was something that bonded the side akin to a band of brothers.
And truth be told that is precisely what the Blind Cricket South Africa side are and have been for a while. They began the 2022 T20 world cup for the Blind with a big win over Bangladesh. They won the contest by 99 runs.
In this game, i.e., the one versus the Australians, the Proteas won by 5 wickets but importantly with nine deliveries to spare.
Hitting the massively important runs was the well-known Sonwabile Bidla’s brother Isaac, the captain.
It’s a shame that when the leading publications around the world entrusted with the task of cricket reporting could have covered the World Cup, they didn’t. On the contrary, they did exactly the opposite.
For much of November, the month just ahead of this World Cup, those who consider themselves Cricket ‘journalists’ focused on cricketers’ private lives; who said what to whom, which cricketer dated which chick and which expensive luxury car was bought by whom.
So much in the name of Cricket journalism.
And this isn’t a sly dig at all, but a statement in amazement. When there came a chance for the so-called “Biggies” and “Torchbearers” of cricket journalism to cover the Blind Cricket T20 World Cup, the feature pieces were missing and there were just no long-form articles out there.
Not on Cricbuzz, a legend of our times and nothing whatsoever on EspnCricinfo.
Would you believe it?
Yet, one team from the land of Jacques Henry Kallis, Francois ‘Faf’ du Plessis and Mignon du Preez kept fighting miles away here in India.
Here was Isaac Bidla and his team; one in which two of his brothers play, one of whom is Buhle, among the most spirited cricketers around. A side that has bowlers of the mercurial strength of Khalala. A team that has big hitters of the caliber of Reme Kampher and wicket takers like Fredrik Boer.
A team that has, truly speaking, one of the nicest and most adorable managers in Mr. Mahabeer and a spirited figure of leadership in Uncle Manny aka Manny Mothilal.
Coached by Michael Da Silva, the famous World Cup winning talent of 1998-99, the Blind Cricket South Africa side, the Blind Cricket South Africa stable proved themselves to be one of the most enterprising and talented sides to take the field in the tournament.
Surely, they didn’t eclipse defending champions India, the deserving winners and the side led by Reddy, another unsung hero. But for all that they did- and they scored runs with might, bowled with their heart and saved every run as if their lives depended on it, South Africa left India a proud stable.
But that wasn’t before a very special moment.
Well, not just the fact that they played the semi-finals, such a memorable feat but the fact that one of South African side’s most famous names, Johan Schroeder was felicitated as among the legends of World Blind Cricket and that too, here in India.
Such a proud moment.
Yet, how many publications covered this feat, which was as inspiring as it was worthy and as timely as it was special?
For a side rated highly for its fielding and considered among the fiercest competitors out there, just what would it take for the leading lights of World Cricket to do their bit?
This is no wise speak but comes from a space of good intent:
If a bunch of cricketers can come together and perform so beautifully in a World Cup despite being restricted by vision, why can’t those who have vision not use it in the right way?