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EDITIONS

Friday, 29 November, 2002, 12:34 GMT
Blind cricketers close divide
Sunhil Gaur of the Indian Blind Cricket Team
India's Suhil Gaur practises in Madras
It is more than two years since the national teams of India and Pakistan met on a cricket field.

The ongoing stand-off between the two governments over disputed territory in Kashmir has deprived supporters of the chance to watch one of the game's great rivalries.

The two teams are due to meet again at next year's World Cup in South Africa, perhaps the most eagerly awaited match of the first round group phase.

But, meanwhile, bridges are being built further down the cricket ladder.

India and Pakistan played each other at the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year, with Pakistan coming out on top by two wickets.

Pakistan batsman Mohammad Aamir
Pakistan's team struggled to find funding

And the World Cup for the Blind in Madras, which starts next week, offers another opportunity to extend the hand of friendship.

"We hope to play our part in the revival of cricket between Pakistan and India," said Agha Shaukat Ali, the chairman of Pakistan's Blind Cricketers' Association.

The tournament will run from 3-14 December and also features England, South Africa, Australia and Bangladesh.

South Africa won the inaugural competition in 1998 as brothers Rory and Scott Field shared an unbroken opening partnership of 376 in a 10-wicket triumph against Pakistan.

They will open their defence of the title against India, with Pakistan facing Australia on the same day - the start of thr round robin phase of the competition.

Four years ago, England struggled to adapt to different rules and a smaller ball than the one they use at home.

A bowler in domestic cricket (photo: Gerald McLean)
English domestic cricket uses a football

"The main difference is that in England with a larger ball you can play all of the shots that a fully sighted cricketer could.

"With a smaller ball you are restricted on shot - there are a lot of variations on the sweep as the ball usually comes along the ground," all-rounder Timothy Guttridge told BBC Sport Online.

"My first goal is to reach the semi-finals and we'll take it from there."

Players are rated either B1 - totally blind, B2 - partially blind or B3 - partially sighted and each team is expected to include at least four from the B1 category.

But simply being there to compete has not been easy for some teams.

"We are going on the trip using loaned money because we never received a reply to our requests for funding from the president of Pakistan or the Punjab governor," said Pakistan skipper Abdul Razzaq.

They will meet India on 8 December, but Razzaq hopes that will not be the only fixture between the two teams.

"We hope that India and Pakistan meet in the final," he added.

For some, old rivalries are still the best.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC News' Karthi Gnanasegaram
"Games in India attract big crowds"
See also:

22 Nov 02 | Cricket
31 Jan 02 | Cricket
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