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Women's Cricket

Undaunted by disability: Meet the ‘superwomen’ who play cricket against all odds

There are more than 1.2 crore disabled women in India. Despite a lack of funds and a bleak future for their game, a few such women cricketers continue training for passion, self-discovery and to represent those who have not found the courage to break the shackles.

Undaunted by disability: Meet the ‘superwomen’ who play cricket   against all odds

Enakshi Rajvanshi

Updated: 18 March 2023 9:36 AM GMT

Imagine fielding at third man with the help of a walking stick. Or wanting to hit a cut shot on the back foot only to realise it doesn’t move. Sounds impossible? Not for these super-women.

Tasnim, 26, grew up in infamous Wasseypur in Jharkhand, where it was deemed unsafe for a woman to step out of the house, let alone play a sport in the sun. Today, she’s a school teacher who everyone looks up to.

Lalita, 26, grew up in a tribal village in Gujarat with just enough resources to make ends meet. She has an infant daughter to take care of now, but her house still does not have a television and has limited electricity supply.

Tasnim and Lalita grew up in different parts of the country, one grew up watching cricket every single day, the other never had access to watching the sport. Today, both of them are state-level cricketers having played for India’s first women’s disabled cricket team.

But there’s one more thing that brings them together – polio.


This story is done in collaboration with BBC News and is a part of the BBC She project where we are working on journalism to serve women audiences.

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“As a kid I was a huge Irfan Pathan fan, I never missed watching a single match. But I knew my limitations. I thought I won’t even watch a single match in a stadium, let alone play it. Because of my polio, I barely had any expectations from life, I was depressed,” says Tasnim.

“But today there’s a new-found self-confidence, people have started to know me,” she says.

There are dozens of Tasnims and Lalitas in India, who despite their physical limitations are playing cricket, a sport that’s still largely dominated by men.

Lalita takes guard while batting

There are more than 1.2 crore disabled women in India, of whom almost 70% live in rural areas with almost zero accessibility and without basic resources that assist their differential abilities.

Despite this, these sportswomen are finding the strength to follow their passion for cricket, fight societal norms, arrange equipment, travel across towns and more importantly inspire a section of the community to dream against the odds.

The first disabled women’s cricket team

In 2019, India’s first-ever disabled women’s cricket camp was organised in Gujarat with the help of Baroda Cricket Association.

Nitendra Singh, the chief coach who led this effort, says, “Girls with disabilities have a lot more determination and will try to prove themselves than any other able-bodied person. They are constantly trying to fit in by doing something extra and putting their lives on the line."

That camp showed a new path to a handful of women. It helped identify top performing women cricketers and eventually became a catalyst in forming India’s first disabled women’s cricket team.

Aaliya Khan, a batting all-rounder and captain of first Indian disabled women’s cricket team

But since then, there has barely been any progress. Most states are struggling to even form their own team of disabled women cricketers.

In 2021, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) launched a committee for disabled cricketers but no funding has been allocated for this till now.

There’s not a single government policy that supports disabled cricketers financially. Neither is there a clear pathway for these disabled cricketers to get jobs. Sports like para-badminton and para-athletics have better opportunities since they have national-level tournaments, are part of the Paralympics and can represent the country and get jobs through sports quota.

Despite this lack of a clear career pathway, some of these women have stunned everyone with their perseverance and dedication.

Even now, every Sunday, 15-20 girls from different parts of Gujarat come together to train for a team which currently has a bleak future.

One of them is 26-year-old Lalita, who hails from Umariya village, in Dahod, Gujarat. And regularly makes the 150-km journey to Vadodara for training.

Lalita during the interview at the Vadodara camp (left); Lalita at her house in Umariya village

Afflicted with polio at the age of two, Lalita has barely any functionality in her left leg. That doesn’t stop her from exhibiting amazing footwork while batting. She stands with the support of a stick, but her stance and bat flow is comparable to any other professional batter.

“The first time I watched cricket was on my mobile in 2018, that is when I felt like playing it. Even today I don’t have a TV to watch the game but I still dream of representing my country internationally,” says Lalita, overwhelmed by the attention of the camera.

Lalita is backed by a support system like none other. Her husband Praveen, a daily wage labourer, travels close to eight hours with her for practice, takes care of their 5-month old daughter while Lalita slogs it out on the field.

“People often comment on Lalita’s clothes when we leave for training, no women in our village wears t-shirt and trousers. They also comment on how she can play when she can barely walk, but I just ignore whatever they say, I just want my wife to move forward and keep making us proud,” Praveen says.

Lalita and her husband Praveen watching old cricket videos on their mobile phone at their house

People like Praveen are a testament that sport knows no gender and the only thing that one requires is genuine support and belief in what sportswomen can achieve.

The gender obstacle in India’s favourite sport has been much deliberated on, but there are other issues facing the likes of Tasnim and Lalita that are often taken for granted or overlooked.

Lack of support

Disability cricket requires a lot more than just the equipment - it requires a special field setting, runners for batters with leg disabilities and a powerplay approach to make the best use of players.

“Today, people at least know a few women players in the country because of initiatives like Women’s Premier League. But we don’t even have the facilities to play a single tournament,” points out Aaliya Khan, captain of India’s first disabled women’s cricket team.

She further says that they are looked down upon just for trying to play the sport.

“There are so many times that I get to hear, ‘Even normal girls can’t play cricket and you want to play with a single hand?’ You know what kind of stature women hold in society, I often hear that I should be at home taking care of children and not waste time playing outdoors.”

The Divyang Cricket Control Board of India (DCCBI) has recently launched a separate committee for women, but despite this there is a clear lack of female administrators spearheading this body for physically handicapped women cricketers.

Blind female cricketers in the country have it a little better due to support via corporate social responsibility and funding through the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI).

“Ideally all the boards, be it DCCBI, CABI or the BCCI should get together to create a structure that supports this cricket. Players come, play and win, but there’s nobody to even watch it. How will anyone understand that they too can play and do it really well?” says coach Nitendra Singh on a call from Australia.

In an era when their able-bodied counterparts are getting paid in crores to play in a league, advertisers are bidding huge amounts of money for ad slots and people are buying tickets to watch them play, this obscure disabled cricket team is training on without any hope of similar recognition.

They are training for themselves out of sheer passion, to find a place in the community and to represent other women who haven’t found the courage and support to break the shackles.

(BBCShe Series Producer: Divya Arya, BBC)

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