JODHPUR: Crippled by polio since childhood, Janak Singh squats on the bowling crease, briefly rotates his arm and sends down the ball with tremendous effort. “I don’t have a run-up but there is no risk of overstepping and bowling a no-ball either,” the 19-year-old Janak told Reuters with a self-mocking smile.
Janak bowls with his left arm and throws with both and, said former India captain Kapil Dev, could teach able-bodied cricketers a lesson or two.
“This is amazing. This is how next-generation cricketers will play the game. I think I got a glimpse of the future of cricket,” said Dev, who helped out at the project for disabled students last week.
Janak’s technique would have impressed former Australia coach John Buchanan, who also worked in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and publicly advocated producing ambidextrous cricketers.
The project, funded by the Laureus charitable foundation in Sarecha village in India’s northwestern desert state of Rajasthan, was aimed at helping disabled students to improve their lives through sport.
Dev passed on tips on technique to some 20 participants in the Indian Mixed Ability Group Events (IMAGE) project.
“Grip the ball neither too tight, nor too loose. No different from gripping the stone you throw at a neighbour’s mango tree,” he said as his audience giggled.
“Did you watch how (India off-spinner) Harbhajan (Singh) bowls? The ball rotates but always lands on the seam. Keep your wrist straight and try to land the ball on the seam.”
One of the boys asked if Dev could explain the grip of Sri Lanka’s versatile spinner Ajantha Mendis.
“Master the basics first. You don’t get enrolled straight in the 10th standard, you start at nursery, no?” an amused Dev replied.
IMAGE runs nine after-school clubs in the state, at which disabled and able-bodied youngsters play sport together.
Paralympic champion Tanni Grey-Thompson, like Dev a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, was enthused by the excitement surrounding the event.
“It was important to have Kapil here, he’s such a famous person in India...If you are well-known, you have a chance to change people’s attitude,” Grey-Thompson, who competed in five Paralympic Games and won 11 gold medals, told Reuters.
“We need more such events. If people see disabled kids play, they start thinking: ‘If they can play, they can do other things as well. Why can’t they work? They don’t have to be burden on family.’ This is what we want.”
Janak, meanwhile, remained engrossed in cricket.
“Provided I get to play cricket, I would not have a complaint against God if I’m reborn disabled,” he said.
His brother, Bhom Singh, vouched for the change cricket had brought about in Janek’s life.
“Most of the villagers have not gone beyond Jodhpur city and my brother has been to London twice (to compete in disabled games) and is going again next month,” he said.
“Cricket has changed his life. He plays other sports as well but is simply crazy about cricket. Janak is no more the shy boy he was. He’s much more confident.” —Reuters