Corporate Cricket


Cricket is fast becoming the way of exhibiting corporate social responsibility (CSR) for business houses in Kashmir. After two leagues, corporate and cricket connoisseurs are back with another league, the Downtown Champions League (DCL) 2013. Run by a group of professional cricketers and sport-lovers, the aim is to identify the talent with the hope to create likes of Parvez Rasool. Bilal Handoo reports.

Indian cricketer Yusuf Pathan alongwith DCL management during its launching ceremony at Srinagar.
Indian cricketer Yusuf Pathan alongwith DCL management during its launching ceremony at Srinagar.

The cricketing forays made by Parvez Rasool at national level, a poster boy of Valley’s cricket, have apparently triggered a chain reaction of cricket leagues in Kashmir. Rasool’s tryst with bat and ball at ‘higher’ level has inspired Valley’s corporate houses to organize IPL pattern cricketing extravaganza on strife-torn turf. The Downtown Champions League (DCL) is the latest addition to league cricket that has roped in cricketing talent from many parts of the Valley, who would be soon in action in three venues in downtown Srinagar.

With an aim to present budding cricketers of Kashmir “a platform to showcase their talent”, the organizers of the DCL announced the start of a T20 cricket tournament in August this year in Srinagar. Sponsored by Khyber Group of Industries, the DCL-T20 cricket tournament 2013 is being organized by a group of cricket “enthusiasts and cricket pundits”, who “intend to promote cricket in every nook and corner of the Valley”.

The organizers, according to the statement, emphasized that their main motive behind investing in cricket and DCL is “to help the sport grow in the Valley and give young players platform and opportunity to show people what they are made of”.

Just two weeks after announcing the DCL, the organizers claim that they had been flooded with prospective owners keen to invest in the sport and be part of the league. The big development comes days after the league organisers managed to have Indian all-rounder Yusuf Pathan at the launching ceremony on the foothills of Zabarwan.

“This is a good initiative,” Yousuf Pathan said on the occasion. “It will help cricketers in the Valley.”

The five-phased DCL trials, conducted in Ganderbal, Srinagar, Islamabad, Budgam and Baramulla came to an end last month. In the first edition of DCL T20, a total of  12 teams, each owned by a separate franchisee, will participate in the tournament on league basis. The top four teams, the first four on the Points Table, will have to play the Qualifier 1, Eliminator and Qualifier 2 to decide the two finalists. In the finals, two best teams will compete against each other for the ultimate glory – the DCL T20 Trophy 2013. Top three teams in the coveted event will take away massive cash prizes with them.

The launching ceremony was followed by an auction of around 400 selected players in a glittering bidding ceremony at Khyber Resorts, Gulmarg on Sep 02. The bidding for all players, first-class as well as domestic, started at a base price of Rs 2,500 while the maximum bid went up to Rs 25,000. All the 12 team owners assisted by their mentors and icon players choose the best squads during the ceremony. The organizers had to take help of lucky-draw, when there was tie in bidding over various players. Cricketers like Parveez Rasool, Asif Rasool, Samiullah Beigh, etc were sold at the maximum bid of Rs 25,000.

The bidding process, DCL organizers said, is only the acknowledgment of immense talent and a token of love, respect and encouragement for cricketers. “This is primarily being done to provide a genuine platform for cricketers from downtown Srinagar to display their talent,” the event organizers said in a statement.

Mohammad Kaif, former international cricketer, who was chief guest during DCL bidding, said that such kind of leagues should be played in every state so that cricketers will get right platform to prove their talent. “Such kind of leagues will boost the local talent and in the upcoming years many players would come-out and perform at various levels from Kashmir,” Kaif said.

Cricketers above 35 years of age will not be allowed to participate in the DCL edition, besides, it has been made mandatory for all the franchisees to play at least four cricketers (players) from downtown Srinagar in their playing-XI.

Nasser Bhat, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) DCL surprised everybody during bidding process when he said that the best 12-15 players from this year’s DCL would get a chance to play in Sri Lanka. Team Al-Khuddam owner, Feroze Ahmad, sent out a message that the best cricketer in the DCL 2013 would be taken for the holy pilgrimage to Mecca in December-January, while the mentor of Team Alkhuddam Nissar Khanday announced a Umrah package for his team’s coach in case the team wins the title this year.

“It is a pure sporting event. The purpose is to tap the new talent. Cricket, as a sport, is extremely popular and followed passionately across the Kashmir Valley. All we intend to do is to give youngsters a chance to showcase their talent,” Gowhar Geelani, one of organizers and media adviser of DCL, said.

Interestingly, DCL is an extension of corporate leagues initiated by some young corporate owners in the Valley for their liking to cricket, and that motivated them to invest in the sport big time.

Farooq Amin of Kanwal Group, and one of the young corporate faces of Valley who started JK Corporate Premier League (JKCPL), says J&K has tons of potential when it comes to cricket and corporates want to help the game grow by investing in it. “We want to make the state a cricket force, one that is reckoned all over India,” Farooq says. “Not only Kashmir is rich with cricket talent, fan base and popularity of the game is second to none and as part of our corporate social responsibility (CSR), we felt cricket is the right sport to be involved.”

The success of JKCPL motivated corporate houses to organize another tournament, Corporate Champions League. The investment in gentleman’s game is, in return, promoting brand image and adding to effective PR exercise of corporates. “Strengthening brand image yes, but we really want betterment of the game in the state as well,” Farooq said.

While many corporate houses were in limelight for sponsoring shorter form of cricket, one business house missing in the action was Khyber Industries, a household name in the state’s business fraternity. By sponsoring DCL, the business house has made entry into the cricketing arena.

“We at Khyber think DCL is something we should be part of,” Umar Khurshid Tramboo, director Khyber Group of Industries said. “We are ready to help DCL in whatever way we can. We feel the endeavor is going to lift the standards of the game in this part of the world.”

Many believe that the DCL will attract young cricketers from ‘volatile’ downtown localities of Srinagar, which often simmer in protests against the establishment. “It is a welcome move,” Mushtaq Gul, a resident of Nawhatta locality of downtown, said. “Since DCL organizers have made it mandatory to include four players from downtown in playing eleven, the locals are likely to turn in good numbers to witness the contest.”

DCL-practicing-sessionSheikh Ashiq, director DCL says that the main purpose is to highlight and promote young talent from every district in Kashmir, “DCL is a tribute to downtown. We will try to make DCL a success.”

The owners of the franchises have adopted twelve different areas of the downtown to be identified with their teams. The area chosen by the particular franchise owner will form the base for his team. Team Imperial Strikers will adopt Rajouri Kadal; Team Alkhuddam Nowhatta; Kashmir Super Kings Badamwari; Jawahar Housing Hawks Eidgah; Kashmir Royal Stars Buchpora; Mirza Gladiators Hazratbal; Baba Reshi Lions Khanyar; Adlife Stars Khayaam; Ahad Sultans Nawakadal; Pride Riders Rainawari; Kehwa Kings Hawal, and Ghani Gliders Zainakadal.

“This adoption is primarily being done to involve passionate downtown crowds to support their favorite teams identified with their areas. Cricket without crowd involvement means nothing,” Naseer Bhat, the chief organizer of the Khyber DCL, said.

There will be three venues for the league-Kashmir University, Gani Memorial Stadium and Islamia College Ground- and organizers are in touch with some well known faces in Indian cricket in their bid to extend league’s reach.

Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, cricket custodians in the state, who are not part of these corporate owned leagues, have extended their support to these tournaments. “As long as cricket is being promoted by these leagues and our players get opportunity to chisel their skills we have no problem with it,” JKCA vice-chairman Javed Ahmad Kitab said.

Senior first class cricketer and fast bowler Abid Nabi, who is set to lead Mirza Gladiators, said that DCL was good for local players. “Such tournaments help to promote local talent and help them to boost their confidence,” he said.

As cricket in Valley is finding patronage of corporate sector, youngsters are lining up to be part of these leagues. And, in the process corporate sector has its pie through CSR quotient.


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