Of the Pitch: Politics date cricket in Kashmir


With the impressive turn-over, former Ranji Captain Parvez Rasool is performing well with his bat. With the two tons in five matches, Parvez had scored 514 runs, to top the table of this year’s Ranji season, so far.

It has been not easy ride back home for the boys, who plunge deep with the grit and determination to make a name in sport, even when the proper cricketing infrastructure is lacking.

In Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA), the drama was on – two warring factions for the tussle for power over association chair have announced separate squads for the Ranji Trophy 2015-16 season, days before the opener on October 1st, this year.

In entwine, the separate squads have had 8 players in common with two different captains. The Farooq Abdullah group has announced the 16-member squad for the first 2 matches which included Parvez Rasool at helm, whereas, Ansari-led faction that has been green signaled by BCCI, in September had announced squad for the first 3 matches.

In the past few months, JKCA had mired into the controversy and the alleged swindling of funds in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, is termed for the tussle for power between the Farooq Abdullah group and the faction of Imran Raza Ansari, who’s the Minister for Sports, in the state. The obstruction for the growth of sport in the valley was visible when ball landed in the court.

With a lucky break through for cricketers, earlier (BCCI), in a meeting had given the recognition to Ansari led group and was allowed to host the Ranji opener at the Sher-I-Kashmir stadium. In September when special investigation team had failed to deliver, the J&K high court had ordered CBI to investigate into the matter.

In a backtrack, it was not again the good time for preparation, for the Jammu and Kashmir Ranji team but, the boys worked hard in nets for this Ranji season, to set the foot-long in the first class leg. After the wobble hobble, players were excited and equally frustrated to play under the new captain Mithun Manhas.

“We have to attend both the groups in separate time slot and this controversy seems unending. We are here to give 100 per cent for the team. Playing for the state is our first and foremost priority. We hope things would settle down as early as possible,” said a player in a line-up.

“Let’s concentrate on the game. We are against from divide and rule. Either we have to rule with the bat or ball or we will be shown the exit door. Well, you can’t put 22 players on task against 11, this is sheer injustice,” another player joked.

J&K Ranji team had assembled in the last week of September at the home stadium for a brief camp; sweating and gearing up for the game plan in the last moment. During less than a week-time, the training camp of a team was on under the direction of Vijay Sharma, the former Ranji captain and Mithun Manhas, the former Delhi middle-order batter, who plays as a player-cum-coach for J&K this season, after replacing Parvez Rasool at the flash.

The cricket pundits are of the view his induction would boost the J&K side, as being one of the experienced players in the line-up but, Parvez was all set to lead the team as he has that potential to gain momentum and unite the young bunch of two different regions.

The constructive all-rounder Samiullah Beigh, who had spent six months in the past at MRF pace foundation, the bowling clinic under the tutelage of the former star fast bowler Dennis Lilee, has been left-out for this season. Beigh who is handy with the bat has played over 50 first class matches and claimed over 130 wickets.

Samiullah Beigh, who had posted a status on Facebook said, “I will be there cheering for my team, this time from the STANDS of course. And I hope all my friends and fans would come and support the J&K team as they did in October 2013.”

Manhas, the vital cog for Delhi domestic leg had returned to valley couldn’t do much in the previous season for Delhi is encouraging its new bunch. In Kashmir, the longer version of cricket season comes to the boys once in a year, as most of the players play shorter version of the game, during the summer season.

“Time is indeed not good! The ill-time replacement as captain shows the lack of proper planning for the future. Time was to encourage the players and what’s the logic of dropping the promising prospect Samiullah Beigh, on age issue or so. He has been doing so well in the Past. The new administration should learn from the past mistakes,” quips Syed Parvaze Qaiser, former Ranji player who had also played Scottish county in 1990-91.

The 81st Ranji Season of 2015-16, is on and Parvez Rasool, the former Ranji captain and only J&K player who had earned the call in Indian squad was worried about the team, as it had not much for the practice even ten days before the long awaited Ranji season. He has been practicing in his hometown after giving a thought, “we require the turf wickets and I hope the team would go long in the vital longer version of the game, although we had not enough of this game.”

“The expectations are always high from the state, and they played the opener before the home crowd but, the two groups were involved in the battle in the past months had already lead to the frustration in the bunch,” said Mehjoor Sofi, a fast bowler.

Earlier, the special member team of BCCI had a visit to the ground to supervise the pitch conditions of the historic Sher-I-Kashmir stadium for the first class game.

Some seasons got away without the practice camps for Jammu and Kashmir Ranji team in the past and that had dent the morale of players at times. J&K had played so far, over 262 Ranji matches and had only managed to win over 20 matches, since late 1950s.

The J&K 2015-16 Ranji season begun with the opener against the Kerala in a Group C match at Sher-I-Kashmir Stadium on Oct 1st that ends on a draw. Kerala team had landed early to acclimatize the conditions. The 16-member team of Ansari-led faction was named by the four selectors, the penal included Vinod Bakshi, Surinder Singh Bagal, Majid Dar and Nisar Khanday.

J&K team had the Ranji debut in 1958-59, when it had lost all the matches by an innings and later on, the team had registered first ever win in the later part of 1970s.

With the rapid rise, once considered as the weaker team J&K had qualified for knock-out stage in 2001-02 and after the gap of eleven years it had again qualified for the knock-out stage in 2013-14, season and later thrashed 40-times champion Mumbai in 2014-15 season.