DUBAI - Cricketers with disabilities from Pakistan and England promise to defy all odds during their ground-breaking series which starts on Saturday, hoping it could set examples for such other people in life.
They may not be big names like Misbah-ul Haq, Andrew Strauss, Saeed Ajmal or a Monty Panesar but they do not lack the passion to show their skills in matches, regarded as more than cricket. For 24-year-old Pakistan paceman Farhan Saeed life was miserable after his polio-stricken left leg was amputated before he found cricketing salvation.
"I thought I will spend my life in a corner of my house but disabled cricket has given me a new lease of life and now I am about to do something which I had never dreamt of in my life -- playing a match in Dubai," Saeed told AFP. Saeed runs aided by a crutch in his left hand, jumps and perfectly lands to deliver the ball -- a sight which is going to excite the fans here.
"It's going to be a memorable series and players will not only showcase their talent but will also send a message to all physically challenged people in the world that they should not get disappointed in life," said Saeed. Also on display will be the talent of Callum Flynn, now aged just 16, who feared his dreams of even playing cricket again were over two years ago after he was diagnosed with bone cancer. But cricket has changed Flynn's life.
"Two years ago, I never thought I would play cricket and then when I did start playing again, I just always wanted to play for England and now I am wearing the Three Lions - it’s just unbelievable," said Flynn.
For 23-year-old Matloob Qureshi life has blossomed ever since he picked up a cricket bat. "I lost my left hand in an accident," said Qureshi, who hails from Multan in the Punjab Province. "Cricket has changed my life and now I am gearing up to hit big sixes against England."
The Boards of both the countries have recognised the series which coincides with the one-day series between the able-bodied teams of Pakistan and England starting in Abu Dhabi from February 13.
Pakistan's disability team will be led by Salim Karim, who founded it in 2006, while James Williams will lead England. The two Twenty20s on Saturday and Sunday will be followed by 40-over one-day matches on February 14, 17 and 19.
The England and Wales Cricket Board disability cricket manager Ian Martin said the series will go a long way towards creating a platform.
"It is just reward for players to be able to compete at the highest level and fantastic for the profile of disability cricket," said Martin.
"I hope the series will inspire many other children with disabilities to choose cricket." Williams said his boys were ecstatic.
"Playing for England at any level in any sport is a big thing and I am very honoured just to be playing. I am honoured to lead a group of 15 players who are excited," said Williams.
"I hope this will leave a legacy. Hopefully this is the first of many international series and long may they continue."
Karim said this series will be the first step towards holding a World Cup for physically challenged cricket teams.
"I hope other countries like India, Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa get inspiration from this series and in the next few years we manage to hold a World Cup for physically challenged teams," said Karim.