Suhail A Shah
Pampore, October 28
When he was six months old, this Pampore youth was hit by a mysterious disease, leading to complete blindness.
With grit he has, however, not only become self-sufficient but also the first-ever Kashmiri to make it to the Indian national cricket team for blind.
While talking to The Tribune at his home amid the saffron fields in Dussoo village of Pampore in Pulwama district, Irfan Ahmad Mir, 21, was all smiles while he narrated his feat.
“I have learnt that the only impairment a man can have is in the mind. The other impairments do not matter and should not hinder our growth,” Irfan told The Tribune.
Irfan played three matches against England earlier this month and is all set to play more matches in future.
The youngest of the five children of a saffron grower, Abdul Sattar Mir, Irfan was brought up like a blind child. “We were always worried about his safety and made sure that he was accompanied by someone at all times during the initial years of his life,” Mir said.
Irfan’s life, however, took a turn for the better in 2014 when his father took him to a camp for blind at the National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH) in Srinagar.
“Till then, I used to think that only my son was blind but at the camp I saw there were so many blind children. That is when I decided to take him to the NIVH facility in Dehradun,” Mir said.
In late 2014, the father-son duo landed in Dehradun, where Irfan spent more than three months at the NIVH facility and attended a programme called “adjustment for blindness”.
We were taught to live on our own. I learnt to use a smartphone and computer to be self-sufficient. I also learnt other skills,” Irfan said. At the camp, Irfan also discovered his love for cricket.
“I used to play cricket but would hit the ball sometimes luckily. But cricket for blind at the camp in Dehradun was a revelation to me,” Irfan said.
He took cricket seriously, practising every day. It was in Dehradun that Irfan came in touch with the blind cricket team from Uttar Pradesh. “I played for Uttar Pradeshfor a year or so before some people from Jammu contacted me and we managed to put together a team of our own,” he said.
Irfan made it to the national team in December last year at a trial camp in Pune.
“I have performed well in the matches against England. But my eyes are set on the World Cup of 2020. I want to perform well in that too,” he said.
Irfan is not keeping his options limited. “I love running and I think I can be a good athlete. I am preparing for that as well,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mahantesh GK, president for Cricket Association for Blind in India, expressed happiness over Irfan’s inclusion in the national team.
“There is immense talent in Jammu and Kashmir. We have two players from J&K — Irfan from the Valley and Rohit Sharma from Jammu. I only hope more players from the state play for the country,” Mahantesh told The Tribune over the phone.