Differently-abled cricketers worry about future after Wadekar’s demise

The All-India Cricket Association for Physically Challenged says it has lost its “soul” in Ajit Wadekar.

Members of AICAPC at Ajit Wadekar's residence on Friday. Photo: Shayan Acharya

Thirty years ago, when Ajit Wadekar set up the All-India Cricket Association for Physically Challenged (AICAPC) — the first formal body for differently-abled cricketers — the objective was to ensure a level-playing field for them.

To be sure, India’s differently-abled cricketers have garnered success — the national team has defeated the likes of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Singapore, and has also featured in the World Cup. Yet they are still not recognised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Now, with the death of its chairman, Wadekar, who pushed for Board’s recognition and ensured the flow of funds for their progress, the AICAPC officials are concerned about the future.

‘Big setback’

“As an organisation, we want to be recognised by the BCCI. But Wadekar sir’s demise is a big setback for us. We are still in shock. He has built the organisation, and he was the soul of it,” Vinayak Dhotre, joint secretary of the AICAPC, told Sportstar on Friday.

Read: Mumbai bids emotional adieu to Ajit Wadekar

Wadekar, one of India’s most successful coaches, was regularly in touch with the BCCI to ensure the players come under its umbrella. A couple of years ago, he had also spoken to the other two groups — PCCAI and Indian Cricket Federation for Disabled — and had apprised the then BCCI chief, Shashank Manohar about the situation. The effort, though, yielded little.

Read: Kapil, Sachin remember 'giant' Wadekar

With Wadekar around all this while, the organisation could manage funds, admits Dhotre. But now it needs to think about the road ahead. “As he was working with the State Bank of India for so many years, he had maintained a very good relationship with various organisations. So, whenever we would approach them, they would entertain us in respect to him. Being an Indian captain, everyone respected him. So, we could manage funds. That may be a factor now,” Dhotre said.

Sachin the patron?

Dhotre is hopeful that with the support of well-wishers and the Wadekar family, the organisation will survive. After Wadekar’s demise, however, it would perhaps need another prominent cricketing figure to come on board so that it gets easy to convince the Board for an affiliation. And for that, the AICAPC would be ‘delighted’ if Sachin Tendulkar comes on board. “He has been close to Wadekar sir, so now, if he takes up, we will be delighted. We will approach him and try to get him on board,” Dhotre pointed out.

Dashrath Jamkhandi, a cricketer who has played for the Indian team, attributed the group’s progress to Wadekar’s efforts. “We don’t have anyone to promote. Because of Wadekar sir, we came into limelight. He came forward to help us out. His last ambition was to get a BCCI recognition as it would open opportunities for all,” Jamkhandi said.

“The Board was entertaining us because of him, but now we are worried. We don’t know what will happen next. [We’re] not sure if they will listen to us anymore,” the cricketer said.

The Lodha Committee had strongly recommended BCCI affiliation for differently-abled cricketers. But a smooth road ahead is far from certain for them.