Can I touch Afridi?" asked Somu Bisht (11) as he was being wheeled in through the heavy security at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds. "I hope I can shake hands with Wasim," echoed Rohit Bali (15). Somu and Rohit were part of a group of children from Spastics Society and the Salam Balak Trust who met the visiting Pakistani team at the nets on February 3, a day before the second Test .
The Pakistani players and a beaming manager Shahryar Khan, who welcomed the kids, seemed pleased enough that the children were able to identify each player. "Youre Salim Malik!" said Rohit promptly when the batsman asked if he could name him. "Youre really a very good batsman," Rohit added for good measure. The cricketers mingled with the children and freely gave autographs. Ankit Bhardwaj (12), also from the Spastics Society, surprised fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar with his ability to hit the ball from his wheelchair.
As the kids got autographs of their favourite players and invited them to their school, Vinita Rawat and therapist Shalini Verma, accompanying the children from Spastics Society, were held in an informed talk on cerebral palsy by Pakistans physio Dan Kiesel.
Later, when the kids were asked how theyd felt, Somu grinned: "When Wasim put his arms a round me I was so happy that I nearly stopped breathing." What did they think of the cricketers who gifted them a ball theyd been practising with? "Wasim is so handsome," they piped up after a moments thought
Thanking Outlook for the "great opportunity," Rawat said the cricket-crazy children had stars in their eyes all the way, and that the affection displayed by the superstars for the 30-40 minutes they spent with the children was touching. "They turned into ordinary human beings for some time.