Cricket is not just another sport in our country, cricket is an emotion, a religion. But often the glorified celebration of premier leagues overshadows the rather unfortunates who are in love with cricket and have dedicated all their time and energy to it. The Disabled Sporting Society has been on an extraordinary journey towards stardom despite all odds. With Captain SuvroJoarder’s exemplary leadership, the Physically Disabled Indian Cricket Team won the Allan Border’s Cup for the Physically Challenge against the Singapore Cricket Club whose team members were all able-bodied men. They won two out of three matches held between May 25th to May 27th and established their immense potential. The Daily Icons had an exclusive interview with the CEO of Disabled Sporting Society, Rashid Khan to get an insight of these extraordinary men and their journey.
Prior to his appointment as the CEO of Disabled Sporting Society, Rashid Khan was closely involved in strategic decision making in business and organizational structuring, covering financial services, transport, security etc for Indian Premier League between 2008 to 2016. He has been the operational manager for Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils, and Sunrisers Hyderabad. He has also served as the Project Head for FC Pune City during Indian Super League. Mr. Khan shared the story about how his involvement with Disabled Sporting Society began.
“I have been always fascinated with sports because I was a sportsman myself. I used to play basketball for the Indian National team. When I learned about Suvro and his team, I figured let’s have a conversation, let’s understand what’s exactly the team stands for and how they perform. We met, me and SuvroJoarder, and we had a long chat in Kolkata, where I got to know that there’s a lot of potentials which has been overlooked by people as well as by the authorities in India. I come with an experience of twenty-two years now in cricket and other sports, so actually I could understand the pain from their perspective and that how hard it is to understand and play the game with a disability. Only a strong and extraordinary human can do that. That was one fascinating aspect for me to look into. When I had another round of conversation with him after few days, we decided to join hands, where he has the acumen about playing cricket and I come from the business of it along with with the modules of it. Let’s try to accumulate both and make sure that what we do is for the betterment of these athletes.”
Mr. Khan explained bit more about the challenges the team faced prior to his appointment as the CEO. He mentioned how Mr. SuvroJoarder’s unstoppable energy led the team to grow day by day despite being different from the norm.
“It’s very important for any team to have a strong captain. And we always believe that a captain has to lead with examples. So when your captain is meeting people like me or anyone else and making sure that your team’s day to day expenses and requirements are getting fulfilled, it’s a great initiative. A player shouldn’t be doing this, the management should be doing this. But somehow he must have felt that it is not enough. That’s why he had to get into the picture and try rolling his hands here and there to get it done. These athletes come from backgrounds where they don’t have a great financial support. When I got to know that they used to spend their own money for travel and accommodation, that was the saddest thing I had heard in the last decade of sports, that a national player who is representing our country doesn’t have the money to travel and stay. I said I will make sure that you don’t have to do this from here onward.”
Sachiin Joshi was one of the prominent figures’ in establishing the financial backbone of the venture for Rashid Khan and Suvro Joarder. Mr. Khan told us about how Sachiin Joshi got involved with the Physically Disabled Indian Cricket Team.
“When I was talking with Suvro, I told him that let me try if I could find someone who can join hands and sponsor the Singapore trip so that you save your own money that you have been investing. We then joined hands with one of my well-known friend Sachiin Joshi. He answers to multiple businesses, one of them called the Viiking Ventures. Viiking Ventures is an organization who is into hotels, motels, travels, NGOs, cricket teams, celebrity cricket teams etc. He himself is also an actor and produces movies as well. So he has a strong background and of course, he loves cricket. So they also came in with a lot of passion, with a lot of enthusiasm to make sure this tour happens for us. That’s how they got into it.”
To our curiosity, Rashid Khan elaborated his optimistic views on the future of his team.
“Beating them (Singapore Cricket Club) with great margins gives you a lot of boosts, a lot of confidence to play better and play more often with abled people. Now one thing that I have realized spending time with them for 8-9 days that we might be the disabled ones, physically but not mentally for sure. We see their achievements, but we do not see the hard work they do, we do not look at the perspective that they are better than us. And as humans, we are very unacceptable about the facts. Mentally, visually or probably I’d say visionary wise, they are far far better than us. We started the streak of winning just now and we have a long way to go. We have upcoming tournaments in Sri Lanka, then we have in Australia as well. Singapore team wants to play again too. The journey just started and I am sure we will reach a point where these people will be called stars.”
We confronted Mr. Khan about the challenges he came across prior to Disabled Sporting Society. His comparison between the past and the present put ourselves in the moral court.
“In the past, the biggest problem I had with managing people was with the individuals who are mentally challenged. When I say mentally challenged, I did not mean medically, it’s about being right as well as about acceptance. Whereas this time, I just sat with them (Physically Disabled Cricket Team members) in the flight, we got to know each other pretty well because we spend six hours in flight, and the moment we got down the flight, it was like I know them from ages. It’s easy to work with these people rather than the so-called physically and mentally fit ones, they are the difficult ones because they know how to do politics. And when you are Bengal, you know what politics means (chuckle). That’s the biggest challenge you see in your normal day-to-day life with so-called normal people.”
Mr. Rashid Khan has been involved with his profession for more than twenty-one years now. His experience and work ethics have a lot to teach. His vision has inspired people around him.
“You know in every profession every day is a new day. Even if you are in a profession like journalism, every day you meet a new person and that’s a challenge for you. Similarly, in my profession, I have worked in many different domains. One thing I have made sure at the beginning of my career is that I am not going to stay in one industry for more than 3 years. I have worked with brands like Coca-Cola, Cafe Coffee Day, Luxottica group, etc., but I have made sure that you don’t deserve me for more than three years (hahaha). Because if you do that means I am a liability to you. I am not a liability for anybody,” Mr. Khan concluded.