LAHORE - Indian blind cricket team captain Shekar Naik on Friday said he hopes to win the hearts of his Pakistani hosts and help the peace process between the two countries. A 17-man Indian squad arrived early Friday to play a series of three Twenty20s and as many one-day matches in Pakistan in their first visit for three years. The blind cricket teams of both the countries play series regularly despite the fact that ties between the able-bodied national teams have been stalled since the 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.
Ties were briefly revived when India played Pakistan at home in a short two Twenty20 and three one-day international match series from December 2012 to January 2013 but the countries haven't played a full series since 2007. Naik said his team was on a goodwill tour. "It's heartening that blind teams play cricket regularly and we are here in Pakistan to win the series as well as hearts because we believe that it's good for both the countries," Naik told AFP.
The first of three Twenty20 matches will be played in Lahore on Saturday followed by the next two in Faisalabad on February 16 and 17. All three one-day matches will be played in Karachi on February 19, 21 and 23. Naik, 28, said he hoped the able-bodied teams could follow the blinds' lead. "I think people around the world want to watch India and Pakistan play each other and I hope that the day is not far when both the nations will play regularly once security problems in Pakistan are over," said Naik, who hails from Bangalore.
India beat Pakistan in the final to win the inaugural blind World Twenty20 held in Bangalore in 2012. Naik said both teams were hoping to use the series to tune up for November's World Cup with this series. "I think this series will help us a lot for the fourth World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa later this year," said Naik. Pakistan won the second World Cup in 2002 and the third in 2006 while South Africa won the inaugural event in 1998.
A blind team comprises a maximum of four partially sighted players, three partially blind players, and a minimum of four totally blind players. A white ball made of hard plastic and filled with small ball bearings is used so that the batsman can hear the ball coming.