Monday, June 27, 2016

Wheelchair Basketball - Exhibition Match for the More-Than-Abled Between India and Thailand

The Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India, led by the more-than-able Madhavi Latha, who is also a swimming champion in the paralympics category (amongst many other champion sides to her), staged a wonderful exhibition match between the Indian and Thailand Wheelchair Basketball teams yesterday afternoon. Wheelchair basketball requires far greater skill because the players have to use the wheelchair with great skill and also control the ball. One could get a glimpse of how far the mind can go, and take the body along in its search for excellence.
The Thailand team won by a huge margin. One knew by the very look of the Thailand team that they knew what they were doing. Lean and strong upper bodies, wheelchairs (very expensive sports wheelchairs as someone said) that moved like lightning and skill that was just too good - with the wheelchair, the ball and the tactical moves. They just steamrolled the Indian team which put up a gallant show in defeat, trying hard with every ounce of their strength. The score was some 30-80 or something in that region.
In the heat of the game

The technical camp initiative was to give coaches, participants and others exposure to the various nuances of the game, its rules, its challenges and was conducted over four days. It was well attended. On the final day they had this breathtaking match between the two sides - as good as any sport or even better. It made one's heart fill to see the manner in which a more-than-abled player from Thailand pulled up an Indian player who had lost his balance and fell off his wheelchair or the way another player joined the impromptu dance program that a small group had put up before the actual game.

Sports, as Madhavi Latha truly believes and lives (is there a connection between believing and living), gives a sense of purpose, celebration and joy, all of which are healthful. A person who may feel otherwise challenged - physically, mentally or in spirit - can pick up a game and find that sense of purpose and joy. It was on show here at The Kotla Vijay Bhaskar Reeddy stadium. Though Madhavi sounded a bit disheartened that they did not get the kind of coverage they could have got, or even support from sports personalities from Hyderabad, I feel they have done enough and more. It's an initiative that has far reaching consequences and opens doors for more-than-abled sportspersons in India to just celebrate life and go and express themselves through games.

The stadium was a poor showcase of what the government does to maintain its sports facilities - with its 1 hour power cut and no generator (a shame really), no air cooling system - this magnificent stadium that could serve so many in so many ways, is let down for the lack of a few amenities that should be standard fare.
Teams relaxing
But one look at the wheelchair bound athletes and you wonder at Madhavi's words on the first day - that there is no infrastructure to handle or support the needs of the more-than-abled even in the national capital, Delhi. One wonders as the athletes moved around with their wheelchairs about the facilities they need - ramps, toilets, transport, stay and all the related issues and one can see how many more-than-abled are staying at home probably because society has not created the spaces to give them. But you create spaces and they will come and give, far more I am sure, than many supposedly able people. You can sense it, you can feel it. The same principle that Dhirubhai Ambani used - creating capacities much larger than estimated demand and thus creating an additional demand (and not the other way round i.e. limiting supply based on demand) - was the principle on which Reliance grew at such phenomenal pace. Similarly, if we create the spaces for all sections of the society, we can create a world that explodes with joy, celebration and happiness.

Madhavi Latha, you are paving the steps for that. You may not realise it now, but this is the kind of work that will one day be seen as pioneering work that puts the focus where it has to be. For starters you got me using this word that I now believe is true - you are all more-than-abled in every way.

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