KOCHI: As he puts his batting gloves on, Sijumon casually explains how he normally travels out of his tribal village in Therakkudy. First, a two-and-half-hour walk through the forest -- a river or two to cross along the way -- as his father accompanies him till Kuttampuzha. Then he depends on infrequent jeep services to reach Pooyamkutty and catches a bus to Kothamangalam and from there to Aluva. All this to play a sport that he dearly loves, cricket.
As soon as he reaches Aluva, Sijumon slips into his cricketing gear and strides out to bat. Suddenly his world quickens up as he starts pummeling bowlers to all parts of the ground. The catch here is he does all this with partial eyesight. Fancy calling it a fight against the odds, but that's the way Sijumon, the captain of the blind cricket academy run by the Cricket Association for the Blind in Kerala (CABK), has known life all the way.
Sijumon, 20, son of a honey-harvester, is just one of the many stories of endurance that this place presents, India's first-ever cricket academy for visually impaired children. The academy has 17 school children from almost all parts of Kerala now. After starting out with weekend classes last year, the academy is conducting a 10-day camp at the School for the Blind in Aluva, where the children are housed at the sports hostel.
While the academy plans to go big this year, their aim is not only to mould cricketers but help visually impaired children learn life skills. "It's learning life through cricket. A blind person can reach society's mainstream and cricket can be a way out for him," says Rajaneesh Henry, the secretary of the CABK."
The academy is being run on the money CABK generated as profits from conducting Asia Cup and World Cup recently. The 10 lakh rupees grant allotted by the state government also helped while Muhammad Farhan, the Keralalite who was part of the World Cup-winning Indian team chipped in with 80,000 of his own.
The players in the academy were handpicked after various tournaments throughout the state and the passion for cricket has put them in a good stead.
"I like Kohli and want to emulate him in our version of cricket. I keep a tab on his scores when I am at the hostel in Aluva as my friends switch on TV wherever and whenever Kohli plays," says Sijumon, whose village doesn't even have power-supply, let alone TV.