Visual Impairment is no barrier: Howzzat?
By- Rupa Joshi
The noisy ball came rolling down the pitch and Muna Aryal readied herself and swept her bat when she thought the ball was close enough and guided it past the fielders into the slips. But instead of dashing across the pitch for a run, Muna waited by the stumps, while her 'runner' Bhagbati Bhattarai did the job for her. Om Maya Pun, waitng at the other end, also scrambled across the pitch while the fielders chased the ball and threw it towards the stumps. The shot scored two runs for Muna, a completely visual impaired (B1 category) girl. Bhagbati and Om Maya meanwhile are low vision girls, in the B2 and B3 category respectively.
Muna, Om Maya and Bhagbati all belong to the 'Kaski Cricket Club of the Blind', playing against the team from Chitwan. All the players, fielders, bowlers or batswomen from four teams from various districts playing at the 'Fourth National Blind Women Cricket Tournament' were visually impaired.
Om Maya, who is also the team's wicket keeper, went on to score 48 runs. When it was their turn to field, Bhagbati and Om Maya between them decimated their opponents, with Bhagbati bagging seven wickets. Team Kaski took home the 2010 trophy, and Bhagbati was declared Player of the Match.
All the players of team Kaski are either present or former students of Amar Singh High School in Pokhara, which has a hostel for visually impaired children attending the school. Bhagbati Bhattarai, just like her captain Bhagbati Amgain, till recently used to live in the hostel, and were Listeners' club members of 'Saathi Sanga Manka Kura' (SSMK) or in English ‘Chatting With My Best Friend’, a radio initiative supported by UNICEF Nepal.
"Being part of the cricket team has really helped boost our self confidence and ego," says captain Amgain, who lost her sight at the age of three to typhoid. "We get to go to new places for matches, meet new friends, and experience new things."
Muna credits the team members outgoing nature to their favourite radio programme. "When comparing our team members with players from other teams, I think we are very outgoing. We are able to speak our minds more than others, and are not afraid to talk to people we have never met before," she says. "I think what we have gleaned from SSMK has really helped to equip us with lifeskills to deal with such situations."
"The SSMK broadcasts portray so many life situations, exactly as it would have happened to us," says Bhagbati Bhattarai. "They might be portraying problems on many issues facing young people, not just about disability, but the presentation and issues are so powerful that we can learn lessons from other people's life situations, and learn to apply them in our own lives."
"The main thing that the dramas and letters aired on SSMK did was to let us know that we were not alone," concludes Om Maya. "And also that if we set our hearts, we could follow our dreams like any sighted person!”
Om Maya’s dream, like the rest of her teammates, is to become a national player.
Sunita Ghimire, 19 from Lamjung, with B3 level vision from birth, who studies in grade ten, is an all rounder who loves batting the most. She is also an advisor of the 'SSMK Blind Listeners’ Club'. She says that although it has just been two years since they started dabbling with the bat and ball, the confidence level of all the players has soared immensely. “We have now gained so much confidence that, we have started playing in mixed matches with boys!” says Sunita with pride.