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“Cricket has had a significant impact on people’s attitudes towards us. We can see the difference in how society accepts us now compared to when we were ‘nobody’.”

A photo of Mohammad sitting in his wheelchair.

Mohammad Mohasin is the captain of the Bangladesh Wheelchair Cricket Team and founder of the Wheelchair Cricketers Welfare Association of Bangladesh.

Can you tell us about your childhood and how you got started with playing cricket?

“I got polio when I was just six months old which left both my legs paralysed. And that’s how I became a wheelchair user.

As a child, I watched the neighbourhood kids play in the playground next to our house. I used to think if my legs were functioning, I could play like them. From that thought, I joined them at one stage. But they did not take me with them when they went to play outside the area. Since then, I wondered if there is a cricket team for people with disabilities like me. Such thought led me to promote disability cricket in Bangladesh through Facebook.”

Had you seen or heard of wheelchair cricket? How did you know there was such a thing?

“When I used to play cricket with my friends, I wondered if people with disabilities like us could also play cricket. So, I started searching online about this and came across Haroon (Haroonur Rashid) from India. He was working on creating opportunities for people with disabilities to play cricket in his country. He asked me if there is such a cricket team in Bangladesh. Through Facebook, I started communicating with organisations that work with people with disabilities. They informed me that there is no such type of wheelchair cricket team in Bangladesh yet. Thereafter, I started working on building a wheelchair cricket team in Bangladesh.”

How did things go from there? Did people hear about the team and want to join?

“Not really. Many people were initially confused about how wheelchair cricket could be played when they first heard of it. We were questioned about how we will play cricket when we cannot even move on our own since the idea was beyond the imagination of Bangladeshis at that time. To find out, we started to involve more wheelchair cricket players from different districts of Bangladesh and bring them to Dhaka for a national tournament. Since we can only express our opinions online, there was no way to verify the players’ skills. Around 36 wheelchair users passionate about cricket joined us for the tournament. After that tournament, we formed four divisional teams. More interested people started coming to us afterwards, but the journey was far from easy. I started working on this topic in 2014 and organised the first tournament in September 2016. I waited two and a half years to put together a proper team.”

Has seeing you play changed people’s minds in terms of what they think wheelchair users can do?

“At first, no one could even imagine how we would play. On top of that, the chances of players getting injured were also high. However, gradually, many became interested. We were playing in an open ground so that people could come and enjoy the game free of cost. As a result, there was a huge gathering. At one point, we realised the spectators were cheering the players by clapping after every boundary. We could see that they took this very positively.”

This must be great for kids who are wheelchair users to see you and know that they can do it too. How does that feel?

“Allow me to share a story about the impact of a wheelchair cricket team. In 2016, a family brought their 12 or 13-year-old son, who uses a wheelchair, to the ground to watch the game. The boy was fascinated by the game and expressed his desire to play. At the end of the tournament, I remember he told me, ‘Sir, I want to play with them.’ With no age limit, I advised him to keep practicing and improving his skills. I promised to provide support throughout his journey and told him to contact me when he was old enough to play. Fast forward to the present, that boy is now 18 years old and a key player in the team. He will participate in the upcoming Asia Cup and is the youngest player in the wheelchair cricket arena.”

That’s amazing. And has he done that because he saw you?

“I think so. He is very good at batting.”

“Initially, we started with just 36 players, but we now have expanded to include over 200 wheelchair cricketers”
A photo of Mohammad sitting in his wheelchair.

Has wheelchair cricket had an impact on attitudes towards disability in Bangladesh?

“Cricket has had a significant impact on people’s attitudes towards us. We can see the difference in how society accepts us now compared to when we were ‘nobody’. For instance, Swapan, one of our players, used to experience rejection when trying to play anywhere. However, since he joined the Bangladesh team, his respect and acceptance by his family, relatives, and society have significantly increased. Cricket has brought about many changes, and it is popular in Bangladesh and worldwide. As players, we now receive respect from people.”

And outside of cricket, what’s it like to be a person with disabilities living in Bangladesh?

“Life is not easy for people with disabilities outside of cricket. Even those who are educated struggle to find jobs that match their qualifications, often due to issues surrounding accessibility. Many buildings are not wheelchair-friendly, making it difficult for individuals with disabilities to access workplaces. Unfortunately, many people with disabilities also endure unpleasant experiences while applying for jobs. Although we are supposed to have job opportunities in the government sector, the reality often disappoints. The private sector is also failing to provide the expected opportunities for the educated. Overall, the situation for people with disabilities in Bangladesh is not very promising.”

What do you think needs to change or what will help make that change happen in Bangladesh to make a more equal society?

“I believe that people with disabilities need to be included in government policies and the private sector as well. Just as we see reserved seats for women, similar opportunities should be available to us in both the public and private sectors. There are many people with disabilities in our society who hold leading positions in various sectors. If qualified individuals with disabilities are allowed to work in different sectors according to their qualifications, there will be positive change. It’s crucial to choose experts from the relevant field and make the best use of their knowledge. For instance, Vashkar Bhattacharjee works in the IT sector, and if I were appointed in IT, I wouldn’t be able to do the job. Similarly, no outsider can do my job. Therefore, providing qualified individuals jobs according to their qualifications and skills will make a significant difference.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

“I am currently working in Asia and trying to establish a connection with England, which is known as the ‘powerhouse’ of cricket. We aim to promote cricket in our region, but due to a lack of funding and proper guidance, we are facing different challenges. We already have our cricket team, but we require help from INGOs like Sightsavers to promote our game internationally, help us get sponsors, and provide strategic guidance for our future course of action. We have four divisional teams, but we cannot provide support for them at present. Initially, we started with just 36 players, but we now have expanded to include over 200 wheelchair cricketers, including a women’s wheelchair cricket national team. I wanted to share this with you.”

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