India are set to host the second Twenty20 Blind World Cup next year, the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) announced on Wednesday (November 9) in Bangalore. They also signed Rahul Dravid as the brand ambassador for the tournament that will begin on January 31 in New Delhi. The final will be played in Bangalore on February 12.
India won the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2012 in Bangalore and then went on clinch the 40-over World Cup in Cape Town in 2014. Australia, Bangladesh, England, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies will lock horns with India in the tournament that will be played across eight venues - New Delhi, Faridabad, Indore, Mumbai, Kochi, Bhubaneswar, Bangalore and cities in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
"It is indeed a huge honour and a special day for me to be here at this event as the brand ambassador of the Blind (T20) World Cup," Dravid said. "I had heard a bit about blind cricket and seen the odd game on television, but I was really surprised by the amount of effort and time that goes into developing the cricket for blind and the (work done by) Samarthanam Trust and CABI over the last five or six years through regional teams, domestic competitions, national competitions and organising the second World Cup. The success that India has had over the last three-four years is really creditable. That gave me the feeling that I would want to be a part of this event and make it successful in any way I could.
"They deserve all the encouragement and support they can get. It's really up to all of us including the media to make this event a big success. People can make a big contribution by coming to the venue and watching matches. They can promote the game that way."
Dravid has been working to promote blind cricket and was involved in Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) activities with the Delhi Daredevils during the Indian Premier League. The former India captain acknowledged that he tried playing with a blindfold and it's not easy to conquer the fear or the ball coming towards the batsman.
"I have tried to play cricket blindfold with this ball and believe me, it is really, really difficult," he revealed. First of all, to conquer that fear, with an object coming towards, you is a very difficult thing to do. I honestly could not do it, and had to back away after a while. The ball comes at you quite fast."
Mahantesh GK, the CABI president, was hopeful of some support from the Board for Control of Cricket in India for the event that will need close to Rs 24 crore for a successful run. Blind cricket does not have affiliation from the Indian board but Mahantesh said the board is considering giving them a financial grant.
"We haven't received any official confirmation from the BCCI but I have been told the board will consider giving us a financial grant," Mahantesh said. "In August this year, I received an email from Anurag Thakur, who is a keen follower of the game. We have got good support from KSCA, Kerala Cricket Association, Odisha Cricket Association and other affiliate bodies of the BCCI. We are also expecting support from the Ministry of Sports."