'Adore Kohli, But Want to Emulate Pandya': Meet Irfan Ahmad, First Blind Cricketer from Kashmir to Play for India
Irfan Ahmed's parents fully supported him when he was first introduced to blind cricket. With no infrastructure for the game in the state, Ahmed travelled to Dehradun to hone his skills. It wasn't easy for him to stay away from his family but he toiled on to achieve his goal.
An all-round cricketer by trade, Irfan Ahmad's love affair with the game started at a young age.
Despite having lost vision in both eyes just a few weeks after his birth, Irfan Ahmad says his life has been nothing short of a dream. The 21-year-old from South Kashmir's Pampore town, renowned for its rich saffron produce, recently became the first player from the state to represent India at the international stage in visually impaired cricket.
Earlier this month, Ahmad was included in the 18 man squad to face England in a three-match T20 series in Bengaluru. "I felt like being in heaven when I heard about my selection. My question of why I was born blind has now been answered," he said with a certain satisfaction on his face.
An all-round cricketer by trade, Ahmad's love affair with the game started at a young age.
His mother Salema recalls he was only three-years-old when he first picked up a cricket bat. While attending regular school in his village Dursoo, Ahmad started religiously following international cricket matches by listening to the commentary on television or radio.
“Just hearing the excitement of the commentators when a player hit a six would give me goosebumps and this is what drove me to the sport,” he exclaimed.
While the news of his selection in the Indian team came as a surprise to many in his native village, but for him, it was an acknowledgement of his hard work despite facing odds from the start.
"In 2015, I was selected to play for Uttar Pradesh cricket team. In 2017 I played for North zone and finally was called for Indian national team," said Ahmad while recalling his journey.
Ahmed's parents fully supported him when he was first introduced to blind cricket. With no infrastructure for the game in the state, Ahmed travelled to Dehradun to hone his skills. It wasn't easy for him to stay away from his family but he toiled on to achieve his goal.
"Whenever there was an internet gag or mobile service was banned over here (Kashmir), I really missed the support of my parents as I was not able to contact them," bemoaned Ahmad.
After getting a taste of international cricket, Ahmad wants to establish his place permanently in the Indian team. But closer to home, there are still very few who know about blind cricket. He said the state has the potential to produce more cricketer like himself but the government has done little to create either infrastructure or awareness.
Describing the rules of the game, he said that blind cricket is not very different from sighted cricket.
"The major difference is in the size of the pitch. We play on 11 yards as compared to 22 yards. There are also three categories of players in a team; B1, B2 and B3. In the first category (who have no vision), there are four players. In the second, there are four more players. These people have a vision of up to 4 meters. Then in the final category, there are three players who have a vision of up to 7 meters," he explains.
For Ahmad, Indian national team captain Virat Kohli is his cricket idol, but he himself is more like a Hardik Pandiya kind of a player.
"I am new to international cricket, so I have to establish myself. I feel I can take up the same role as Hardik Pandya does in the sighted cricket team," he said.
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