Playing On Ice

Breaking The Ice

For the third time in history, Jammu and Kashmir team reached a knockout stage. Will they pass this psychological barrier, asks Umar Mukhtar

Six years after the Jammu and Kashmir cricket team has raised hopes as it has reached the knockout stage, the quarter finals of the ’s Ranji Trophy. Last time, it lost the nail-biting clash to Punjab.

The 2014 competition led to the formal introduction of Parvez Rasool to the cricketing world for his brilliant all round performance, that eventually won him Lala Amarnath award. Same year, he made his ODI debut for India in 2014 and played in a T20 against England in 2016.

Interestingly, it is only third time when the Jammu and Kashmir team has reached this stage in history. The first time was 2001-02 season, when former Indian batsman Ajay Jadeja was playing for the state team, when the team reached pre-quarters. Historically, Jammu and Kashmir has been one of the weaker teams. Till 2016, Jammu and Kashmir team had won 21 of the 267 matches.

So far Jammu and Kashmir team’s performance has been outstanding – of the nine games they won six, lost one as two matches ended in a draw.

The team is now playing against the Karnataka for the semi-final. One of the toughest teams in the current ranking, Karnataka is playing against the host team in the Gandhi Memorial Science College Jammu grounds. Will the familiar pitch help the hosts perform better? The results will be out early next week when the 5-day test match will be over.

Last season (2018-19), the team had a dismal performance after finishing at number six in group C with table-19 points, by winning only three of the nine games.

Improved performance owes much to the leadership of Parvez Rasool and better management of the JKCA. “We are doing well and giving our best,” Parvez said on phone. “We are hopeful that we will go through this time and will break the ice.”

Interestingly, the better performance came in a challenging year. Post August 5, Kashmir remained under lockdown preventing players to pool up and practice.

“For three weeks, we didn’t have contact with the players. The season was approaching and we had to do something. I instructed the district police office to personally go to the homes of a many players and bring them safely to Jammu,” Ashiq Bukhari, a former IPS officer and current CEO of JKCA, said to a sports portal ESPN cricinfo. “One of the players, when the police went to his house, started running away, thinking he had committed an offence. The police had to explain to the boy’s father and then he came. The other thing we did was to run tickers in our local TV channel asking for players to report in Jammu.”

Insiders said the improvement has much to do with Irfan Pathan’s role who was appointed a mentor cum player by JKCA in 2018. In September 2019,  Cricinfo reported, Pathan handed copies of a letter to his players that ended with the line: “We will qualify for the knockouts in at least one format this season.”

In Jammu and Kashmir playing squad, seven are from Kashmir and four from Jammu including one from Pir Panchal.

Playing On Ice

In Gurez, boys plays cricket on snow and create an amazing game, reports Shakir Ashraf

Cricket always carried its own lightness of touch. A short video of a cricket match being played on snow in remote Gurez went viral last week. Usually disconnected from Kashmir and confined in between the inaccessible Razdan Pass and impregnable Line of Control (LoC), Gurez receives snow in meters and not inches and most of the avalanches are reported from the belt.

The video shows the players having laid the mat after levelling the 22-yard pitch between the two wickets. Barring the batsman and the keeper, every other player, including the bowlers, would run on the snow. The two teams were competing as a commentary was going on.

Apparently the video was shot by a smart phone by one of the spectators. In the video hundreds of spectators including old, children and women were seen cheering on every shot.

This pushes Kashmir to a new record of sorts. The first ever cricket ice tournament was first played in Switzerland in 2019 and it attracted cricket fans from across the world. With success of this tournament, Khan International Sports, an international cricket goods brand of Jammu and Kashmir, wanted to organise a similar tournament in Pahalgam. However, it did not mature for lack of sponsors. Then came the shocker from Gurez which played and enjoyed the game and triggered a real buzz in the world of cricket. Is there anybody who can walk the talk?

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