Playing cricket with no arms

Image source, Barcroft India

When he was eight years old, Amir Hussain Lone lost both his arms in an accident at his family's saw mill in Indian-administered Kashmir. Now, at 26, he's mastered cricket and is the captain of the Jammu and Kashmir para-cricket team.

Before the tragedy I had no passion for cricket - it was only afterwards that my love for the sport began. I used to go to our neighbour's home to watch games because we didn't have a TV set at home, but then one day, when I was cheering on my favourite cricket players, they turned the TV set off and asked me to leave.

That hurt me. I left, but I still wanted to watch the match. I ended up watching a whole innings from outside, spying through a crack in their window, and it was at that moment that my feelings for cricket crystallised and I pledged that I would play.

I struggled hard to develop my technique, whether it was bowling or holding the bat. Thanks be to God, I have done pretty well.

Our society seems to have a problem with disability. Here I was, having lost both my arms, and a lot of people used to say that I would've been better off dead, even to my face.

Image source, Barcroft India

This occurred to me when I was thinking about why my neighbours didn't want me in their home. Our society places a lot of value on money, and I come from a poor family, so that played a part in the way I was treated as well.

The accident happened in 1997 when I was eight. We had our own sawmill. It was a Sunday and the night before my father had told us not to use the machine in the morning because he was going to be away. But while he was gone, one of our family friends came over and said he needed to saw some wood for someone, and could we please help. My elder brother went over and later my mum asked me to take lunch for him. I didn't want to go, but I went anyway.

My brother and the others got busy eating their lunch and I was playing with a bunch of other kids around the saw, when my jacket got caught in the machine and before I could even understand what was happening the machine had sucked me in. One after the other my arms got cut off, and then I got thrown into some kind of a ditch.

After a while they found me and took me to the nearest house. The owners there wanted nothing to do with me.

"He's already dead," they said. "Take him away." In the end an old woman brought me some water in an old broken cup.

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There was no way to get me to a hospital because there weren't many cars in our village. And those who did have cars and could have helped chose to stay away. Finally one of our neighbours, a young girl, gathered enough courage to go to the army camp in our village and ask them for help. Some army guys came and took me to their camp, where they gave me first aid and bound my wounds up as best as they could.

This was at a time when the situation in Kashmir was not very good, but even then those army guys took me half-way to the hospital in Srinagar. There they flagged down a civilian car and asked him to drop me off. Some of my aunts were accompanying me.

The driver in that car took us some way along but then he stopped and asked us to get out. We were in the middle of nowhere. My aunt begged him, but he kept saying that he was busy and that I was as good as dead anyway, so it was pointless making the trip to the hospital.

Luckily the army car had been following us the whole time. When they saw what the driver did, they got quite angry with him and then took me to the Bone and Joints Hospital in Srinagar.

Image source, Rameez Raja

I spent three years in hospital. At first, when people visited me, I couldn't recognise any of them. I was very, very sick. People started to say to my parents that I was as good as dead and that they should poison me and be done with it. But my grandmother, Fazee, said that as long as she was alive she would take care of me. I was very lucky to have her.

When I came home, my grandfather saw me and started crying and wailing: "What shall we do? Amir's lost both his arms." That was when I first realised exactly what had happened to me.

At the time I wasn't aware of how my parents managed to get the money for my treatment. Then people told me my father had had to sell the family land to get money for my treatment. They had also had to sell the sawmill - they had sold everything for my treatment, and they never even told me. But thankfully they didn't need to ask others for help.

When I was in hospital it was as if I was in a dark room and I had no interest in the outside world. I wouldn't even look at the other patients. Everyone had their own sorrows there. But when I came out of hospital, it was almost like the coming of spring after a long winter, like we have here in Kashmir. I saw that there was a new world and new hope for me.

My mother didn't ask me to go to school because she knew how hard it would be for me, but my grandmother insisted that I go. At school I was the only boy with a disability, so I always had to compete with able-bodied children for everything. A lot of people started saying I had no reason to be at school, that education was not for me, that I should just stay at home. When I told my grandmother this, she said, "You don't have to do anything, just go to school and sit in class, that's all."

Image source, Barcroft Media

The first thing I learned to do with my feet was eat. When I first came home people told my parents that they should just leave food out for me on the table, like you would for a dog, and that I could eat with my mouth. My grandmother wouldn't stand for it. So that's how I learnt to feed myself using a spoon held with my feet. That made her very happy. She put her hand on my head and said a prayer for me: "May God never make you dependent on others."

My parents were always out working, it was my grandmother who supported and reassured me.

Much later, when I was studying in college, the para-cricket players came and asked me if I played cricket and I said yes. I had played before, but for my first match there, regular bowlers were conceding far too many runs, so the captain asked me if I wanted to bowl. Someone else said, "Oh but how will this poor man bowl, he has no arms?"

I grabbed the ball with my feet and bowled and I got a wicket on my first ball.

I hold the ball with my feet, as you would with your hands. I swing my leg the way you would your arm. And I throw it keeping the line and length in mind just like any able-bodied bowler would.

I hold the bat between my neck and my shoulder. I field differently from normal players - I use my feet. But let me tell you, I can throw the ball back from the boundary right into the keeper's hands, just as quickly as anyone else.

Image source, Barcroft Media

In 2013 we played in Delhi against the Kerala cricket team. I was captain and I was very nervous because it was the first time I'd played cricket outside of my state. I really wanted to do well. I batted seventh and scored 25 runs. There was a lot of pressure on me, but I really enjoyed myself. And I went back to the pavilion not out. The Kerala team were so good to me, they lifted me up on their shoulders and started cheering for me, even using their own religious chants and slogans. Then people from the audience also joined them. They later told me that it was the first time they'd seen someone without arms play like me and they were very pleased.

I like both batting and bowling. My highest score in para-cricket until now is 28 runs. I did score 80 on a local match once but those stats aren't really counted. I once got six wickets in a match.

I have to say everyone in my village has been brilliant. Not initially, but now. I had to make something of myself to make them accept me.

My grandmother passed away but if she was alive she would have been very happy to see my cricket career. May God grant her a place in paradise. She was with me until I was in my mid-teens. She would even play cricket with me. She was my mother, my father, she was my everything.

She would always say to me: "Amir, remember what people said when you came back from the hospital, they said you'd be better off dead. My God will grant my prayer and you will become even better, even more special than any of them."

Nobody can predict what will happen tomorrow but my hope is that I will one day become an international player, and I'm working really hard to make that happen. God-willing one day I will take my place in the national para-cricket team.

Amir Hussain Lone spoke to Outlook on the BBC World Service

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