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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Aussie support for India’s physically challenged cricketers

Harley Medcalf, manager of cricket great Steve Waugh, on his campaign to help a select group of cricketers in India.

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Harley Medcalf is describing a game of cricket he saw in India recently.

“I absolutely loved every minute of it,” he says enthusiastically. “You watch a guy running up to bowl, then realise one of his trouser legs is empty and flapping in the wind. Mid-delivery, he then pivots with a huge pole you would normally associate with bushwalking to seam the ball up. The batsman facing the ball only has one and a half arms but plays the most beautifully stylised cover drive with perfect balance. I was completely blown away.”

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So blown away, in fact, that the physically challenged Indian cricketers he watched have now become a near obsession: he wants to raise $10,000 to help a hundred of them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summarising the career and character of Harley Medcalf in a few words is challenging. The Managing Director of Duet Entertainment and Sport, which produces and promotes stage plays and concert events around the world, he has been a key figure in entertainment since the 1970s. Working with the likes of Elton John, Queen, and the ABC, he also acts as the manager of numerous Australian sporting personalities, including ex-Australian captain and cricket great, Steve Waugh.

Harley also raises funds for children with rare diseases, tertiary education in developing countries, and the Veterinary Science Foundation.

In January, Harley and Steve Waugh met the players during their trip around India to photograph them for Steve’s soon-to-be-released book The Spirit of Cricket. Now Harley’s combining his passion for entertainment with his sporting partnerships and desire to give back into this one special project. With, of course, some assistance from his sizable following, and Steve Waugh.

“Things were starting to go quickly downhill with COVID-19…I thought I could do something,” he told Indian Link. The players’ traditional funding from sponsors has gone to the PM CARES Fund, leaving them ‘struggling for food and medicine’.

Working with the Physically Challenged Cricketers Association of India to raise these funds, Harley’s GoGetFunding campaign has already raised A$5,000. It’s partly thanks to some online promotion by Steve Waugh – but he doesn’t plan to stop there.

“I’ve got donations from $30 to $1,000,” he reveals. “Of course, helping 100 players is only the first target. Based on the response, I feel the need to help them long-term as well, possibly through corporate support. It is generating a lot of interest in India and the current players of the senior men’s team.” 

Of all the interest, however, what appears to be motivating him is the drive these players have for the game.

Harley Medcalf
Harley Medcalf during his visit to India.

“They play an immensely competitive game, committing 100% to it,” Harley says, obviously in awe. “They don’t see [their disability] as a hindrance to their cricket or to their life. They’re just really passionate about the game, passionate about their team, their colours. For me these are old-fashioned qualities I find inspirational. It’s hard to find them today in many places.”

The players have been described not as ‘physically challenged, but enabled’ by Steve Waugh.

Indeed, in a tour that featured meet-and-greets with both old and young cricketers – Harley spoke fondly of Steve inviting Sachin Tendulkar to present a cake to the then-active first-class cricketer Vasant Ranji on his 100th birthday, as well as witnessing cricket played in Mumbai and Kolkata’s famous maidans – both consider meeting cricketers with disabilities as a truly special moment.

Steve Waugh with the Indian cricketers.

“Watching them was a real privilege,” Steve describes. “They had the hang time of a Michael Jordan, the flexibility of a ballerina, and the athleticism of an Olympic athlete.”

After coaxing a prediction out of Harley for the 2020-21 Australia-India Test series – ‘I think Australia will struggle to beat India this time…but when they get out in the middle, both teams will be at it 100 per cent’ – he ends the interview simply but eloquently.

“100 per cent of the fundraising from my campaign goes to the players, and anyone can donate. Everything helps.”

For more information and how to donate, please visit https://gogetfunding.com/physically-challenged-cricket-association-of-india/.

READ ALSO: All abilities welcome

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Manan Luthra
Writer, cricket fan, gin and tonic enthusiast. Emerging journalist passionate about art, sport, and education

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