Darkness fills his eyes. Yet Shuvendu Mahato has been dreaming. And that dream is finally going to be realized as the 25-year-old from West Bengal will represent India in the T20 World Cup for the Blind set to be held in Bengaluru from December 6 to 17.
Hailing from Kaima village of the Garshalboni area in West Bengal’s Jhargram district, Shuvendu, a totally blind player (B1), is the only cricketer from the state to be part of the Indian contingent.
His father Buddhashwar Mahato is a farmer and mother Deepali Mahato an Anganwadi worker. Shuvendu was not blind from birth and it was an accident in 2001 that changed everything for him. Both his eyes were injured and kept losing his eyesight as treatments did not help. In 2005, he lost his sight completely.
However, Shuvendu did not lose the battle of life and continued to fight. Along with his studies, he started playing cricket at Chaitanyapur Vivekananda Mission Ashram in Haldia. In 2014, the first opportunity to play for the Bengal blind cricket team came to him and he has been playing for the state team for the last eight years.
After completing his graduation in political science from Rabindra Bharati University, Shuvendu is currently pursuing his B.Ed at Payradanga in the Nadia district. He studies and trains at the blind hostel Tapobane in Payradanga.
Even after playing for the country, blind cricketers are not in the limelight. There is hardly any sponsorship for them and buying sports equipment is often difficult. According to Subhendu, not many people know about cricket for the blind and he aims to make it popular and raise its stakes. “We all try to take cricket for the blind to a higher place. You have to work hard until you succeed,” he says.
The 17-member Indian squad for the T20 World Cup has three categories of players — B1 (completely blind), B2 (partially blind) and B3 (partially sighted). Ajay Kumar Reddy from Andhra Pradesh is leading the team. The players were selected after a 12-day camp in Bhopal in September. Before that 56 players had undergone two months of training in Bengaluru and 29 were shortlisted.
Former India player Yuvraj Singh is the brand ambassador of the T20 Cricket World Cup for the blind. Nepal, Bangladesh, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are the other teams. India won the T20 World Cup on two previous occasions — in 2012 and 2017.