The Indian team proudly lifted the Blind Cricket World Cup after defeating Pakistan in the finals. Ajay Reddy, who hails from Guntur, was the one who lead the team to victory. Looking back on the second consecutive win by the players, the captain says that the team dedicates the victory to the Indian soldiers at the border who are sacrificing their lives for the country.
Q What was the mood like after the win?
I ran onto the pitch and kissed it. My eyes were moist because I remembered all the hard work that had gone into the preparation. Since we are defending champions, we wanted to do it successfully. It wasn’t easy and we were under pressure. We had stretched our practice hours. We started preparing in early December. We wanted to treat every match like it was the finals. This is my fifth win against Pakistan. When we heard that the Prime Minister had tweeted about our victory, we realised how closely he was following our game.
QWhat was the team discussion like on the night before the finals?
We decided to enjoy the game and not worry too much about the pressure. Syed Kirmani, a member of the 1983 World Cup-winning team was with us that night. He inspired us a lot and even gave us tips on how to approach the final, pressure tactics, stress management, maintaining composure, etc. Before the match we had decided not to visit any malls or tourist places in Dubai. We had also submitted all our mobile phones to the management the previous night. We didn’t want to listen to any music, watch videos, etc. We wanted to eat and sleep happily and be fresh on the day of the final match.
QDid you expect to win? How did you keep the team motivated?
We did not think too much about playing against Pakistan and considered them to be a rival just like any other team. But we had studied the strengths and weaknesses of every team before entering into the World Cup.
We were certain about our performance. We have won against Pakistan in the past and it was not difficult to win against them this time either.
Q So, who do you credit the victory to?
It’s a team effort; we had a great mix of young and experienced players. Our head coach John David and chief coach Saju Kumar worked very hard to keep our spirits high. Winning once again proved what team effort can do. We want to dedicate this victory to the Indian soldiers at the border who are sacrificing their lives for our country.
QWhat does this success mean to you?
This victory is an achievement, but it has only proved that even though we are disabled, we have it in us. People in society still look down upon us. All we need is encouragement and we can pull off anything.
QWe hear that you avoided visiting the Burj Khalifa earlier, while all other teams did?
All the teams visited the Burj Khalifa during the tournament and we too got a chance to go there. But we didn’t go because we came here for the game, not for sightseeing! But we made it a point to visit after winning.
G.K. Mahantesh, President, World Blind Cricket Council and Cricket Association for Blind in India (CABI) was ecstatic about India’s victory. He said, “To successfully defend the title takes a lot and I’m proud of how our men showed character. Cricket is a religion in India and we are elated that blind cricket is also becoming the talk of every home in the country. It is a sign of great things to come.”
M.S.K. Prasad hails victory
Captain Ajay and his team also received congratulatory messages from India’s chief selector M.S.K. Prasad.
In an exclusive chat, Prasad, who is currently with the Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team in South Africa, said, “I wholeheartedly congratulate the team, Ajay Reddy and the Indian Blind Cricket Association for winning the World Cup. I know Mahantesh and David were instrumental in developing blind cricket in India.”
Incidentally, both Prasad and Ajay hail from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. “I have known Ajay Reddy for the past four years. In fact, we had sponsored him for his previous World Cup. When Dr Gangaraju was the secretary of the Andhra Cricket Association and I was its director then, we sponsored many blind players and tournaments as part of our social responsibility. Andhra Cricket Association still continues to fulfil the responsibility under its current regime,” states Prasad.
He signs off saying, “Whenever I meet Ajay, I tell him that we will always support him. In fact, we work for an NGO in Guntur and meet at all their events.”
The victorious Indian team is scheduled to return to India on Monday evening when more celebrations are lined up for them in Delhi as well as other cities during the rest of the week.