Cricket: The men in blue you don’t know
A documentary film, The Other Men in Blue, tracks the raw grit and talent that has seen India’s blind cricket team bring home four World Cups
On a sunny morning in May 2016, filmmaker brothers Tathagat and Navagat Prakash were at south Delhi’s Harbaksh cricket stadium. Afar, they could see a young man wearing black goggles practising in the nets. It was different; the ball had a sound in it. The Prakash brothers discovered that the batsman was visually impaired.
“We got the idea for our next film,” said Tathagat, co-director of The Other Men In Blue, a documentary film on visually impaired cricket players in India. “The next thing we did was read anything and everything available on them.”
The film captures the motivations, aspirations and challenges of men and women—with various degrees of vision impairment—who have represented the country in domestic and global cricket tournaments.
The men’s team in this category has fetched India four World Cups. “It has not brought them any recognition and has not changed their lives for the better, like one would imagine,” Navagat said.
The film talks about a cricket form which is devoid of fame, glamour and money. How passion and grit drive these women and men to play their top game is the underlying theme of the Public Service Broadcasting Trust production.
Ajay Reddy, captain of the Indian blind cricket team, is from Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. More than a decade ago, he overheard some of his friends discussing the average performance of the Indian team (for the blind), particularly at international competitions. “That was when I decided that I had to play cricket and be part of the team which would win the World Cup. I’m lucky to have accomplished both my dreams,” Reddy, who has a day job as an assistant manager in a bank, told HT.
Reddy was four years old when he lost his vision to an accident. He says his father, who was also visually impaired, encouraged him to pursue a sport to divert his mind. Reddy wanted to join the Indian Army.
The Other Men In Blue shows how cricket gave Reddy the confidence to face the world. It changed his thought process and body language. “Winning and losing are part of the game. Now, I apply the same philosophy to life. I no more feel depressed thinking about my problems,” he said.
Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI), a private entity, appointed Reddy captain of the national team in 2015. CABI governs and organises cricket for the blind in India. It has 24 state associations and over 25,000 players affiliated at domestic level tournaments.
“Lack of money and recognition by the government are our primary concerns,” said Shailendra Yadav, secretary, CABI. “If the government starts recognising blind cricketers the way it does other sportspersons, it will help them avail quota in government jobs and various other benefits. Overall, it will encourage many more visually impaired players to take the game seriously,” said Yadav.
About a third of the 30-minutes-long film is about the women’s blind cricket team and the challenges they face. “Their story lends itself for a separate film,” said Tathagat. “From leaving their hometowns to convincing their families to finding an appropriate place to practice, every single step is a struggle for them.”
Yadav said that on most of the occasions, girls practise in parks and open spaces which are not even fenced and, therefore, unsafe. “If we ask them to reach the ground at a certain time and one of them reaches 15-20 minutes earlier, her safety becomes a cause of worry of us. Secondly, most of these places are not clean. Hygiene is an issue in such public places,” he said.
The Other Men In Blue was screened at the 16th Mumbai International Film Festival in January, PSBT festival (Delhi) and will be screened at the 22nd Annual Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival in New York later this month.