India's Physical Disability WT20 winners are jobless, in poor financial health
Today marks one year for the Indian team's Physical Disability Twenty20 World Series title in England, but 14 players from that 18-member squad are jobless and in a financial crisis
It's exactly a year since Vikrant Keni led India's disabled cricket team to the Physical Disability T20 World Series title in England. However, it's not a happy anniversary considering 14 players from that 18-member squad are without jobs and in poor financial health.
The team's opening pair comprising Jammu and Kashmir batsman Wasim Iqbal, 27, and Maharashtra's Kunal Phanse, 26, are diploma holders in Electrical and Mechanical engineering respectively. However, both have had to resort to farming given their unemployed status. While Iqbal has been working on his family's apple orchard in Anantnag, Phanse helps his parents on their sugarcane farm in Pune's Jejuri region.
Iqbal, Phanse's crucial stand
Keni rated Iqbal and Phanse's 125-run match-winning opening stand, chasing arch-rivals Pakistan's 150 for seven, as the turning point of the tournament. "That was the crucial partnership of the tournament. Wasim [43-ball 69] and Kunal [55 not out off 47 balls] helped us beat Pakistan very convincingly [by eight wickets in 17.1 overs] in our last league match. Our next match was the final," Keni told mid-day on Wednesday.
A day after beating Pakistan, India outclassed hosts England by 36 runs to clinch the inaugural World Series in Worcestershire on August 13, last year.
Iqbal fractured his right leg while playing cricket at the age of six and numerous surgeries have proved futile. Phanse's left leg was damaged due to an unsuccessful hip surgery during his childhood.
Keni is disappointed to see both his match-winners struggling. "I feel sad for Wasim and Kunal because they are qualified engineers and fine cricketers. Since returning from England last year, Wasim has spent most of his time at his apple orchard while Kunal travels around six kilometres from his home daily to work with his parents on their sugarcane farm. Unfortunately, only four of us from that World Series-winning team have jobs. Mumbai-based batsmen Ravindra Sante and Nagpur's all-rounder Gurudas Raut are employed with Central Railway and Navy respectively while our wicketkeeper Tushar Paul is a teacher in West Bengal. I work for a private firm in Mumbai. The rest are all struggling," explained Keni.
India players celebrate after winning the Physical Disability T20 World Series title in Worcestershire last year
Phanse recalled how the players discussed becoming financially independent after the World Series win. "During the tournament, we used to discuss that if we fare well, we could land good jobs. But apart from the prize money [R2.70 lakh each] that we got from the BCCI, we got no other assistance. I have applied to so many private and government bodies and even requested some of the office-bearers of our association—All India Cricket Association for Physically Challenged (AICAPC)—to look into the matter, but nothing has come out of it," said Phanse.
Iqbal, 27, is equally disappointed. "I have applied for jobs in both the sports quota as well as in the open category for the post of an electrical engineer but got no response," said Iqbal.
Seeking BCCI's support
Former India pacer and AICAPC president Karsan Ghavri, 69, felt the BCCI should take India's disabled cricket body under its umbrella. "The BCCI have been helpful and I hope we get their support in the future too. We have requested them to take our organisation under their wings just like they have done for women's cricket," Ghavri told mid-day.
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