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Muhammad Inzamam

One legged cricketer: A struggle to success in Kashmir

Cricket has helped Bhat deal with his disability [Muhammad Inzaman]

Date of publication: 24 December, 2017

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Shabir Ahamd Bhat is a star cricketer for Rahim Greens in Indian-administered Kashmir, but with only one leg his struggle to success has been real.

It's a chilly overcast day in December, and 30-year-old Shabir Ahmad Bhat steps onto a cricket pitch at Kashmir University in Indian-administered Kashmir. He puts his right foot in front of the wicket and then adjusts a crutch on his left. As a fast bowler from the opposite comes paces towards him, Bhat takes a step forward on his one leg and hits the ball in the cover.

Bhat - a sturdy and outspoken cricketer from Srinagar's Hazratbal area - lost his left limb when he was just three-days-old. A firepot accidently dropped on his left leg and doctors advised for the amputation in order to save his life.

Bhat grew up watching other children playing and swimming, but his disability held him back from joining their games. In his childhood, his father could not afford crutches for him, so he would wear flipflops in his hands and crawl on the grounds, dragging his body behind him.

But as he grew older and had crutches arranged for him, Bhat did not let his disability stop him from achieving what others could.


Bhat's life has not been smooth. In his early age, he had to struggle to keep up with other kids who used to go for swimming and stroll around after school.

"When I used to see other kids swimming in Dal Lake, I would cry. But I learnt swimming on my own till I was at par with other kids. I never let the thought of losing one limb deter me from doing what I was capable of," Bhat says.

At the age of 12, he joined his friends and neighbours playing on streets and roads, but as he began to discover his potential, he joined a local cricket team that had proper uniform and play kits. Since then, he has not stopped.

Bhat is not only good at batting, he is an active and enthusiastic fielder. He prefers to field in the cover.

When a speeding ball comes on his side, he scurries with the help of his crutch, then drops it away and dives to catch the ball. He prefers to call himself an all-rounder on the playground.

Bhat steps up to bat for Rahim Greens [Muhammad Inzamam]

"It does not seem difficult now. I have been practicing and playing for a long time and it has now become impulsive," Bhat says.

It is not just for the fulfilment of his passion that he plays cricket, but he believes sports keeps him fit, mentally and physically.

"Had I chosen to stay at home because of the amputation, I would have been consumed by the diseases," Bhat says.


He takes his inspiration from former Pakistani cricketer Syed Anwar, who he thinks had a calm but solid demeanor. He also loves Indian skipper Virat Kohli.

What disappoints Bhat is the lack of support and attention he gets from the government or the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association. He laments that he was spotted by many politicians and bureaucrats playing in the playgrounds but none paid attention or helped him financially.

For now, it is Rahim Greens - a Kashmir-based corporate house - supports Bhat's sports expenses.

"Had it not been for Rahim Greens, it would have been difficult for me to keep playing, because no other organisation or agency has ever come forward to help me," Bhat laments.

Had I chosen to stay at home because of the amputation, I would have been consumed by the diseases.

For a living, Bhat works as a tailor and runs a small business. He says he does not want to be dependent on anyone.

Bhat steps up to bat for Rahim Greens [Muhammad Inzamam]

"It does not matter if I have lost a limb. I can work as good as others and earn enough to support my family," he says.

Bhat's team mates say they are inspired by his dedication and optimism.

Mushtaq Ahamd Raja, Bhat's team mate, has known him since he was a teenager. He recalls that when Bhat used to play, a huge crowd would gather around the playground to watch him hit the ball.

"There were few army camps nearby then. I remember they would also come out to watch Bhat play," Raja remembers.

Raja admits that the determination Bhat's determination is unusual and extraordinary and that other team mates are inspired by him.

Bhat is equally thankful to his team mates who offered him a space in the team and have been taking him to all the important matches.

Bhat has played many inter-district matches and won several awards for his extraordinary performances on the ground.

At the end of the match, while packing his kit, he suddenly stops and addresses a group of five people who have gather around him. "With just a one leg, I am keeping my family and myself happy. Imagine what those can do who stand on both legs?"

As Bhat leaves the cricket ground in the evening, I ask him about his favourite cricket team.

He grins, then giggles and says: "Pakistan, obviously."

Muhammad Inzamam is a freelance journalist based in Indian Administered Kashmir. 

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