Our team won the Blind Cricket World Cup in South Africa in 2014. As captain of the Indian blind cricket team, this victory was one of the most uplifting and motivating experiences of my life. Our team trained together in Orissa for a month in November. There were coaching camps set up for us to practice and perfect our techniques. The training proved to be really hard simply because the grounds we practiced on weren’t prepared to cater to the needs of the team. However, in spite of difficulty of not having a specific field for the visually impaired, we practiced with determination.
The final match took place between India and Pakistan, and there was a point where I can clearly remember sitting in the locker room, worried that we would lose. The entire team was only thinking that if Pakistan won, it would be a hat trick. It was almost a do or die situation for our team, but we knew that if we put our mind and minds to it, we could do anything. By the end, we came back victorious and met the prime minister. The moment when Mr. Modi took our autographs instead of giving us his and said “You’ve made our country proud” made me realize how lucky we were and instilled a sense of fulfillment.
Corporates and even the government started to recognize the potential and capability of the team. Coca-Cola hosted our team at their office. Coca-Cola has been helping blind cricket in India from the beginning. Seeing such a large organization supporting us is really motivating for our team. We played cricket with employees and blindfolded them to give them an insight as to how to play cricket being visually impaired. It was extremely fun meeting all these employees and they made us feel included.
We as a team need a lot of support financially and even as a community. Coca-Cola was focusing on areas, which a lot of people didn’t even know existed. That’s what makes it even more important. I felt really proud to have the colors of Coca-Cola on my jersey. The performance of the team has improved greatly and, even though we’re visually impaired, we know we can represent our country in global opportunities especially with corporates and government supporting us and helping us thrive.
Shekar Naik is captain of the India Blind Cricket Team