Bhubaneswar: Physical impairments can be an impediment only if you let it be and Odisha’s Md Jafar Iqbal has lived by this adage.
A former student of Bhima Bhoi School for Blind, 29-year-old Jafar, along with Pankaj Bhue, has found place in the Indian squad for 5th ODI World Cup Cricket Tournament for the Blind 2018.
Jafar has been making the cut since 2011 and a part of all major tournaments that India won, from T20 World Cups to Asia Cup. From cursing the inability to see to accepting the impairment as a blessing, he spoke to Odisha Sun Times about his journey as a cricketer.
“I grew up studying in the school for blind and the world outside has remained hazy. I hated the fact that I am different because I wanted to pursue higher studies. I always felt having vision would have made me the topper or maybe better at so many things. But cricket happened and my attitude towards life changed,” he said, smiling his way out of the words.
He was selected in the Indian blind cricket team in 2011 as an all-rounder. Before this, he was the captain of Odisha’s blind cricket team. “Under my captaincy, Odisha won its first-ever state-level match in Lucknow in 2010. We went on to win six consecutive east-zone tournaments. It paved the way for my entry into the Indian team,” he continued.
His achievements in Paralympics are lesser known. In 2007, he won the gold medal in 800 metres sprint along with bronze in 200 and 400 metres. “It was a low-phase in my life as I could see no future in cricket. Thus, Paralympics happened. I didn’t want to stop and let my impairment be a hindrance between me and whatever I could achieve,” he added. He won the silver in 200-metre race in 2008.
Jafar has a blurred vision and not completely blind. Since he plays in B1 category, he wears an opaque glass during the match.
“I remember, our school teachers playing the radio for us to listen to the commentaries. We imagined how the sport would be. With the help of our teachers, we started playing with the coconut oil tin with pebbles in it, so that we hear it moving, and a bat. We played on the verandah. And then we got plastic ball with cycle bearings inside. There’s been no looking back ever since. I fell in love with this game.”
Lack of encouragement has been a challenge, he said, on asked about the struggles. “People never thought I could or my team could play or do something remarkable. School teachers were the only support initially. Best thing amidst all this negativity was the support from my parents.”
He expressed his desire to play on further and even when he cannot, someone from Odisha to be a part of the Indian cricket team. Speaking about his feelings about being a part of this team, he said, “Cricket is a religion. The impairment has been a blessing, allowing me to represent my land outside. It’s a proud moment to be recognized as a boy from Odisha.”