India have won the DICC T20 Champions Trophy for deaf cricketers. They beat South Africa by 39 runs in their final match, at the Malek Stadium in Abu Dhabi, maintaining their 100% record in the tournament.
Put into bat they made 140 from their allotted overs, with skipper Virendra Singh leading from the front with an unbeaten 50, whilst Indrajeet Singh made 40. That was too much for a South African team who were bowled out for 101, R du Plessis top scoring for them with 23.
The tournament also featured an Australia side and one from the UAE.
India won by 39 runs.
It was the first international tournament that the Indian team had played in since the global pandemic, the last being the same event which was staged in India in 2018. Even more than with normal players the pandemic proved to be a significant setback for deaf cricketers, and it has taken time for the sport to regain its upward momentum again.
The history of deaf cricket
Deaf cricket is a version of the game which has been adapted for the needs of those who have impaired hearing. It is governed by the Deaf International Cricket Council.
Australia is widely credited with being the birthplace of the sport, and Melbourne Deaf Cricket Club has claims to be the oldest sporting club for deaf people in the world.
The first ever interstate deaf cricket match was played between South Australia and Victoria in 1895. However, it would take almost a century until Australia hosted England in the first ever all deaf test match in 1992. The hosts won by ten wickets.
Three years later the first World Cup was held in Australia, and again it was the hosts who won it, with England finishing second and India third. There have been two subsequent tournaments, the most recent of which took place in New Delhi in 2018.
In the final, Sri Lanka beat the hosts India by 36 runs. It was the third major world cup success for Sri Lanka, following their success at the 1996 World Cup and the 2014 World Twenty20.
The role of the DICC
The role of the DICC is to offer cricketers with hearing impairments the opportunity of playing cricket on the international stage. It currently has eight full-time members – Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
India has associate member status alongside Nepal, New Zealand and the UAE.
Although distinct from cricket’s world governing body, the ICC, they are working towards affiliation with it.
The Challenges of deaf cricket
One of the biggest barriers that deaf cricketers face is problems in communicating with each other and also with coaches. That has meant many have found it hard to make significant progress in the sport.
There has also traditionally been a lack of funding and access to top class coaching.
One of the ways that these obstacles can be overcome is for deaf players to train and play alongside “normal” players and to share their training. That not only helps raise standards but it is a significant way of overcoming prejudice as well, by proving that they are every bit as adept when it comes to playing the game. The ultimate breakthrough would be to get a deaf cricketer playing for a first class county or State and, perhaps, in the future, also making their international debut.
World Deaf T20 Cricket Championship
Next January will see the first ever World Deaf T20 Cricket Championship, which will be staged in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, India (which recently staged a T20I between India and South Africa).
The championship, which is expected to feature eight teams, was originally planned to be held in 2020 – 2021, but the coronavirus outbreak put paid to that. It is being organised under the auspices of the All India Sports Council for the Deaf.
Not only is it hoped that this will put deaf cricket on the map, but it should attract other people with hearing impairments to want to take up the sport. Whilst being deaf is an impediment, as the Indian team showed on Sunday, it does not define who they are and what they are capable of achieving.
Where there is a will, there is usually a way.
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