Nepali Times
Not seeing is believing


Swastika Bhujel, 22, is blind. But that doesn't stop her from playing cricket. She and her teammates are gaining fame in Nepal as the world's first national cricket team for blind women.

Swastika is studying for her bachelor's degree in education at Prithvi narayan Campus here. People who don't know her say they are surprised to find out after a game that she is blind.

"At first, even I didn't believe in myself enough to play the game," Swastika says, "but when I put down the white stick and picked up the bat, I could play the game well."

Swastika also works as a massage therapist to earn money to pay for her studies. She started playing cricket five years ago and now plays for the Nepali national blind cricket team and the Kaski district team. She won the Woman of the Match in two blind women's cricket tournaments in 2010.

Bhujel's coach on the national women's cricket team is Major Pavan Ghimire, who was blinded by a landmine during the war and set up women's blind cricket in Nepal (see below).

Says Ghimire: "Swastika is an honest and skilled player who can undertake leadership."

Swastika's father, Bam Bahadur Bhujel, 65, says he was concerned about her, their 12th child and the youngest in the family. "With sheer determination she is now as good a player as someone who can see," he says proudly. Four of Swastika's 111 siblings are also blind.

Swastika's mother, Purna Kala Bhujel, says her daughter achieved it all through drive and motivation. "Now, when I see my daughter successful, not only in her studies, but also in sports, my eyes tear up with joy," says Purna Kala.

There are about 200,000 visually impaired people in Nepal, according to the Nepal Association for the Blind, and women are doubly marginalized because of their disability and their gender. Many say that cricket has transformed their lives, with about 320 blind and visually impaired cricket players in Nepal. Swastika plays in the B1 category (see below).

Bhagwati Bhattarai from Syangja says she never thought blind people could play cricket. But now, Bhattarai, a visually impaired 11th-grader who attends secondary school in Pokhara, is a member of the national team and says she's even considering making it a profession.

"It is only our eyesight that is lost," says Bhagwati who lost part of her vision because of a cataract. "But if we're determined and move forward, then we can be successful in every field. Cricket has boosted my confidence."

Nepal's blind women cricketers are training to take part in the Blind Cricket World Cup in Bangalore next year.

Blind Cricket Rules

Compared to normal cricket, cricket for the blind has shorter bats, smaller gloves and a shorter running distance between the two wickets compared with normal cricket. The balls are rigged so that they make a sound for the players to recognise and follow.

Visually impaired players are categorised into three groups. People who can't see are Group B1, those who can see slightly into Group B2, and those who can see as far as the wicket are in Group B3.

Players from B1 have a red ribbon around their hands, B2's have white and B3's have blue ribbon. Players from B2 and B3 group do their own bowling and also take their own runs, while players in B1 category have their friends from B2 and B3 take the runs on their behalf. Each run that is in favor of B1 players is counted as a double run, if it's one, it is counted as two, if two, then four and so on.

Bhagwati Amgai and Om Maya Pun practice in a field in Pokhara (right) and Swastika Bhujel in action in a practice blind cricket match in Kathmandu recently. 

Soccer's blind spot


It's hard to imagine playing soccer without being able to see the ball, but a team of blind soccer players in Indonesia, is defying the odds.

Honing in on their other senses, the soccer team plays with a ball fitted with a bell and the players have finely tuned their ears to their feet so they know just where to kick.

"At first, I couldn't imagine that I could kick the ball because when the ball stops, there's no sound," explains team member Dian.

Dian has been playing soccer for years now and is pretty adept at scoring goals. Part of a team launched by the Indonesian Football Association in 2007, Dian says the sport is taking off in the blind community. The teams are usually made up of 7 players, 4 totally blind and 3 who are visually impaired. The games are a noisy affair, with supporters from the sidelines shouting and yelling and telling the players where the ball is.

Ramdhani is the head of the association of blind sports in Jakarta and says the game still has a long way to go before it gets recognition. "Sometimes football for the blind is not considered a sport, but a form of entertainment. I think we have to change this to give skills to people with this disability,"
he says.

For players like Oki, however, playing football as a blind man is an achievement on its own. He adds: "I love the sensation … it is thrilling that someone blind like me can still play football."

Read also:
Soldiering on, Major Pawan Ghimire lost his sight during the conflict, he has now devoted his life to helping
blind sports

See also:
Aarti Chataut's Sangharsa on women's blind cricket on NTV

1. Radha Krishna Deo
Wonderful very inspiring to depressed one.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)