Blind cricketers keep their ear to the ground

Head coach of the KwaZulu-Natal blind cricket team, Desigan Pillay (left) discusses tactic with the founding member of the association Shane Mahabeer.
Head coach of the KwaZulu-Natal blind cricket team, Desigan Pillay (left) discusses tactic with the founding member of the association Shane Mahabeer.

THERE is nothing to impair the enthusiasm of the KwaZulu-Natal blind cricket players. Northglen News had the privilege to watch the team prepare for its upcoming fixtures against Boland. The players play with a rattling ball and an enhanced sense of hearing, or a sixth sense as head coach Desigan Pillay explains.

Pillay who is visually impaired schooled at Arthur Blaxall School for the blind in Pietermaritzburg.

“I learned about the cricket team when Northern Transvaal toured in 1998. The bug bit immediately and it was something I was so passionate about. I made my debut for the KwaZulu-Natal team before having the honour of captaining the South African blind cricket team. Initially playing the game didn’t come naturally but it was about developing the sixth sense and keeping our ears close to the ground so to speak. They visualise the object coming towards them, their ears are attuned to the sound,” he said.

Most of the standard rules in cricket apply for blind cricket bar a few changes. The first is the ball that is used to play with is filled with ball bearings so that it can be heard by the fully blind batsmen and fielders. Not all 11 players are fully blind. There's a fixed composition in the playing 11 that consists of a certain number of fully blind (called B1 category), partially blind (called B2 category) and partially sighted (called B3 category) cricketers. The bowling is underarm (always) and the ball has to bounce twice before it reaches the batsman. The bowler shouts ‘Ready?’ before releasing the ball to which the batsman must respond by saying ‘Yes’. Then the bowler shouts ‘Play’ before releasing the ball. Every time a fully blind or B1 player scores a run, the run is doubled before adding to the scoreboard. They can also take a catch on one bounce and it is out. There are no bails on the stumps and their and the stumps colour is fluorescent orange or yellow.

Sphilele Khalala, a member of the KZN Blind Cricket team gets down low to play a sweep shot.

Pillay said he anticipates a tough tour but is looking forward to the games against Boland being played at the Chatsworth Oval in Arena Park and Siripat Grounds in Reservoir Hills.

“I’ve been coaching and helping the team out for the last six years. We’ve had a clearing out of some of the older, more experienced players and are in somewhat of a transition phase at the moment. It’s a young team and while we acknowledge we have got a long way to go, I think we will be extremely competitive. What is fortunate is having people like, Shane Mahabeer, who is one of the founders of the KZN Blind Cricket Association. It is such a privilege having him as well as other founders around and having their expertise on board,” he said.

Donovan van Noordwyk gets ready to bowl. In blind cricket the ball is bowled underarm.

Donovan van Noordwyk gets ready to bowl. In blind cricket the ball is bowled underarm.

To learn more about the visit their Facebook page, KZN Blind Cricket (Kznabc).

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Some of the rules in blind cricket

  • Most of the standard rules in cricket apply for blind cricket bar a few changes. The first is the ball that is used to play with is filled with ball bearings so that it can be heard by the fully blind batsmen and fielders.
  • Not all 11 players are fully blind. There’s a fixed composition in the playing 11 that consists of a certain number of fully blind (called B1 category), partially blind (called B2 category) and partially sighted (called B3 category) cricketers.
  • There are no bails on the stumps and their and the stumps colour is fluorescent orange or yellow.
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