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This 'able' cricket team won T20 series 6-0 in South Africa

India's differently abled team whitewashed South Africa in the bilateral series held from June 30 to July 5; skipper Ravi Patil, who is polio-afflicted, is grateful to MS Dhoni for providing kits and clothing for the tour

While Mahendra Singh Dhoni has yet to win a Test or one-day series in South Africa, a team of physically challenged cricketers from India clinched a six-match Twenty20 series in the Rainbow Nation recently. Incidentally, it is Dhoni who, in his own way, contributed to this win.

Ravi Patil
Skipper Ravi Patil (35), a resident of Virar.  Pic/ Kaushik Thanekar

Polio-afflicted Ravi Patil (35), the skipper of India’s physically challenged team which beat South Africa 6-0 in the bilateral series held from June 30 to July 5, can’t help repeating his gratitude towards Dhoni, now playing in England, for providing kits and clothing for the South Africa tour.

Ravi Patil
Leading from the front: Patil not only led Team India to a  victory against South Africa in the Twenty20 series, but was also the top performer with 310 runs and eight wickets in the series with his off-spin. Pic/Kaushik Thanekar

Nor can he forget his meeting with him after the India skipper arranged for kits that they needed for their tour of Pakistan in 2012. “We met Dhoni bhai in Nagpur (during the India vs England Test in 2012) and thanked him for sponsoring our kits. He showed how down-to-earth he is by talking to us and even eating snacks with us,” Patil said.

victorious team
Challenge accepted: The victorious team (above), four of whom are one-handed

“Dhoni has been very kind and helpful. He supports us through his charitable foundation. We also have Chetan Sharma (former India cricketer) who guides us all the time. There are also some people who sponsor a few players with airfare and other financial help. Rajasthan Cricket Association is also very supportive,” said Ravi Chauhan, general secretary of Physically Challenged Cricket Association of India (PCCAI).

A couple of years ago, Virar-based Patil was a loner. He had no friends or colleagues with whom he could share his feelings. At any gathering, he would remain ignored and at times unattended. He only had his family around, to whom he turned for everything. But his team’s victory against South Africa earlier this month has changed his life.

“I must have attended nearly 100 functions as chief guest in and around my area. Earlier no one would ask who I was, so it feels good when people now come looking for me to invite me for their functions. All this is only because of what I have achieved in cricket,” he said. “Achieving something is very important, especially for disabled people. Nobody tells us anything to our faces, but every physically challenged person will tell you that society does not accept us the way you are accepted,” he said.

Glory days
Patil not only led Team India to a whitewash victory against South Africa in the Twenty20 series, but was also the top performer with 310 runs and eight wickets in the series with his off-spin. He smashed a century in the first match at Pretoria. Ravindra Sante was the other star performer, scoring a 35-ball 103 in the fifth match. Off-spinner Yashpal Sharma took home the Man of the Series and Best Bowler awards for his nine wickets in the series. The team has four one-handed players — Gurudas Raut, Rajesh Surve, Iqbal Khan and Sante, while wicketkeeper Tushar Paul has an artificial limb. Raut won hearts when he smashed a six with one hand in the final match of the series, said Chauhan.

Respect and acceptance
The Indian team also played a friendly match against able cricketers of the South Africa Police Club and the visitors triumphed again. “It was a great experience playing at international venues like Centurion Park (Pretoria). It was a dream come true. We have always seen international Indian cricketers play at these venues. We never imagined that disabled cricketers would also get so much respect and acceptance,” said Patil.

Administrator Chauhan is keen to see PCCAI recognised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), whom he has written to. “England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has their handicapped cricket team under its wings. If the Indian board can do something similar, these talented cricketers will have a secure future,” said Chauhan.

Patil's journey
Patil’s cricketing journey began after Sainath Sports Club, affiliated to the Mumbai Cricket Association, encouraged him to play with able cricketers. “I thank my coach Vivek Kadam and other officials at Sainath SC who gave me the opportunity to compete with the world. My father also encouraged me to focus on cricket after he saw that I had the talent. He told me not to worry about polio and just give my best,” he said.

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