|© UNICEF India/2007|
|Indian cricketer R.P. Singh presents a special cricket bat with a message on eradicating polio to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Sushri Mayawati as part of the ‘Bowl Out Polio’ campaign.|
By Anupam Srivastava
UTTAR PRADESH, India, 14 November 2007 – After a recent one-day cricket match between India and Pakistan, victorious Indian cricketer R.P. Singh received a special award from the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Sushri Mayawati.
Before accepting the highly anticipated award, Mr. Singh presented Ms. Mayawati with a cricket bat signed by all the players of his team as a show of support for the ‘Bowl Out Polio’ campaign. The message on the bat read: ‘We want to see the children of India run and play. Let’s bowl out polio.’
The Bowl Out Polio campaign was launched in 2003 through a partnership comprised of UNICEF, Rotary International, NPSP-WHO and the Board for Control of Cricket in India. Since that time, Indian cricketers have been involved in the campaign and are helping to spread the message about polio eradication.
“The Indian cricket team will always do its best for India,” Mr. Singh said while being cheered on by a crowd of some 40,000. “We want every parent and everyone associated with the polio programme to do their best, too. We want Uttar Pradesh to bowl out polio.”
A longstanding collaboration
During the India-Pakistan series in 2004, the captains of both teams collaborated to run alongside children who were holding banners bearing the polio campaign slogan. Both countries are polio-endemic, with India reporting 367 cases so far this year.
As part of an ongoing initiative to involve cricketers in the effort, three special bats with messages about polio eradication have been signed by the Indian team. Two of the bats are for the Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The third bat will be presented to the Union Health Minister, Dr. Ambumani Ramadoss, at the launch of the next polio immunization round on 25 November at Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in New Delhi.
The immunization round coincides with the cricket test match between India and Pakistan. Indian team players will attend the launch before they start the day’s play.
Motivating communities through cricket
Cricketers have helped to make the campaign more visible by visiting remote districts in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where they immunized children and motivated grassroots workers.
Said former Indian cricket captain and winner of the 'Champion of Champions' trophy, Ravi Shastri: “If I can be of service ... I will feel a great sense of satisfaction of having made a contribution to improve the lives of the people of India, especially those who are marginalized and most susceptible to diseases such as polio.”
This spirit of community is a guiding force in the campaign, and as the cricketers travel from place to place, they are bringing the message of polio eradication with them.