Man of the series turned farm hand- Bhalaji Damor

Wednesday 22nd July 2015 09:31 EDT

Man of the series in the first cricket world cup for the blind, Bhalaji Damor's life is not as impressive as his career record. The all-rounder who took India to the semi-finals of the 1998 tournament, now tends buffaloes and does odd jobs in farms.

With a record of 125 matches, 3,125 runs and 150 wickets, to this day, he remains India's top wicket taker. “After the world cup, I had hoped to get a job. But I couldn't get in anywhere even through the quotas for sports or the handicapped,” he says. All he got from the Gujarat government was a citation many years ago. Today, the one-acre farm he shares with his brother in Piprana village in Aravalli does not help him meet his family's basic requirements and his physical impairment makes it difficult for him to get outside work. His wife is a casual farm worker.

He occasionally goes to the blind school at Idar and coachs students for a small fee. All put together, the family earns around Rs 3,000 per month which is less than the Rs 5,000 cash prize he got as the player of the 1998 world cup 17 years back.

“It is a sad truth that sportsmen in the special category are not recognized or rewarded at all,” says Bhushan Punani, president of Blind People's Association of India. Bhaskar Mehta, vice president of National Association for Blind said, “Bhalaji used to herd goats as a teenager and had a rare gift for cricket, so we encouraged him to play local tournaments. Unfortunately, it didn't get him anywhere after the world cup finals.”

The completely blind cricketer, who played eight international matches, was once honoured by President K R Narayanan after India lost in the semis to South Africa.

The incident brings to light the difference between the lives of mainstream cricket players and others. While cricketers with normal vision are applauded and commended for knocking down stumps from square leg or gully with just one wicket in sight, Bhalaji as a bowler could hit the stumps, ball after ball, with zero visibility. His heightened sense of hearing helped him time his shots cleanly.

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