Valley’s Pace Express’ Forced To Derail

There is lot of debate why Kashmir’s best cricketers were dropped, reports Gowhar Geelani

Removing the ‘butcher of Najafgarh’ out early is any bowler’s dream. If a bowler fails to ensure Viru’s early exit from the crease, Pakistan’s pace spearhead Umar Gul would tell you what happens then! Five boundaries in a single over, just six balls, in a World Cup semifinal.

If bowlers don’t beat Sehwag’s defence or fail to control his aggressive display of batsmanship in a test match, the man goes on to score a triple century while hitting the red cherry with utter disdain for a mighty six at Multan.

These are the simple things which are understood either by cricketers or those level-headed fans who understand this glorious game of uncertainties well enough. Unfortunately, the selectors of the Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] State Cricket Team seemingly defy all cricketing logic, sound reasoning and common sense by dropping Kashmir Valley’s premier pace bowling pair comprising of Samiullah Beigh and Abid Nabi for the third T20 encounter in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in India.

Why were they dropped?

Perhaps Samiullah’s fault was that he removed Virender Sehwag on the very first ball of his first over in the second T20 match against Delhi and gave away only 25 runs in his spell of four overs [4-25-1]. Playing in the same match, Abid had taken Mithun Manhas’s wicket and his bowling figures read: 4 overs, 26 runs, 1 wicket.

On 21st October, the J&K boys were playing against a stronger opponent, Team Delhi, at Bansi Lal cricket stadium, in Rohtak, Haryana. Delhi had Virender Sehwag, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma [the members of the Indian National Team] and players like Rajat Bhatia and Mithun Manhas [both play in the Indian Premier League].

Team J&K lost this closely fought contest by four wickets. It had been a mouth-watering contest. A nail-biter.

After winning the toss, Delhi had decided to field first. The J&K boys scored 121 runs for the loss of eight wickets. Chasing a seemingly modest target of 122, Delhi had a horrific start to their innings. V Sehwag was back in the hut early for just one run with the scoreboard reading 5 runs in the second over of the match. Kashmir’s Samiullah Beigh had done what South Africa’s Dale Steyn would have been proud of doing!

It was a classic dismissal the fast bowlers love; caught wicket keeper Obaid Haroon, bowled Samiullah Beigh. With just three balls remaining in the 20th over, Delhi needed eight more runs to win. They did win the match in the end, but the J&K team had managed to win the hearts of hundreds of spectators present there at Rohtak while displaying their fighting spirit, the team spirit, passion, enthusiasm and the mental toughness. This encounter had ensured that the J&K boys were starting to gel together as one unit. A rare happening! A rare scene!

Ideally, this match should have given the J&K selectors a rare opportunity to build on the momentum and try winning the remaining three matches by selecting a strong and deserving eleven. Better, they should have given the same combination a chance to go hard at Team Haryana. But, they took an earth-shaking decision. The selectors dropped the two most talented and quality players–Samiullah and Abid, for the third T20 game against Haryana. Zahoor Sofi made his Twenty20 debut.

Team J&K went on to score a paltry 66 runs and lost the game by eight wickets with 25 balls remaining. That was a complete humiliation! The selectors seemingly don’t appreciate the unity in the camp. Perhaps impressed by the ludicrous interferences by the administrators of the Pakistan Cricket Board [PCB] in the national team, unnecessary political interventions and the mind-boggling selection, the J&K selectors decided to take a leaf out of the PCB’s book. But, who cares? The selectors certainly don’t!

Only three years earlier, in December 2008, Samiullah had career best match figures of nine wickets against Team Haryana in a four-day First-class match at the same venue, Bansi Lal Cricket Stadium, Rohtak. His fabulous spell had ensured that the J&K registered its first win in a First-class match that season. Samiullah had taken six wickets in the first and three more in the second innings while scoring a patient knock of 48 with the bat in the first innings.

Should the selectors have dropped such a serious talent against the same opponent who have a great respect for Sami’s pace, bounce, seam and swing?

Thankfully, both Samiullah and Abid were brought back into the team for the fourth T20 game against Himachal Pradesh. The J&K boys lost the game by a margin of just nine runs. Samiullah took three wickets for 22 runs in his four overs [4-22-3]. The team had rightly gone with a pace combination of Samiullah, Abid and Sameer Ali. The bowlers restricted their opponents to 134, but the J&K batsmen failed to deliver the goods when it mattered the most. Only exception was Adil Rishi, who scored a spanking knock of 70 in 54 balls with an impressive strike rate of nearly 130. No one supported him though.

Samiullah Beigh and Abid Nabi have featured twice in Duleep Trophy and thrice in Deodhar Trophy. Both have an impressive record at the Ranji level.

Samiullah has a total of 122 wickets in the First-class, List A and Twenty20 formats at the Ranji Level while scoring more than one thousand [1069] runs in 70 games he’s played until now. He has also hit four half-centuries, with 61 being his highest score.

Abid Nabi–Samiullah’s pace bowling partner in the Ranji Trophy Plate League competitions, has 139 wickets and 849 runs in his 66 matches overall, which include First-class, List A and T20 matches. Approximately 26-year-old Abid has also been part of the U-16 and U-19 squads.

Credible sources inside the J&K Cricket Association reveal that the selector, Mr A Qayoom–a former Ranji player himself, isn’t happy with the speedster duo of Sami and Abid for all off-the-field reasons. On the condition of anonymity, sources further say that the regular status updates on the Facebook by Samiullah in relation to the matches are one reason while the “attitude” of fast bowlers is another. It seems that on-the-field performances by them do not matter much.

In a bizarre development, Samiullah was dropped from the squad while on tour last season too for updating his status on the popular social networking site. That despite Sami taking six wickets and scoring 139 runs in three First-class games in 2010 season.

No wonder Farooq Abdullah is the President of the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, and it [the Association] does not even have its website in this modern age of information technology and networking!

A Glance At Samiullah’s Career:

Samiullah Beigh–the Courtney Walsh-style lanky fast bowler with broad shoulders from the Kashmir Valley–made his First-class debut in 2003-04 Ranji season. He has also been part of the North Zone squads for Duleep and Deodhar Trophies. He has been a standby player for two IPL teams: the Chennai Super Kings and Kings-XI Punjab. In 2008 Ranji season, Samiullah took 25 First-class wickets and scored 271 runs. With four 5-wicket hauls in his career so far, his best bowling figures in one innings are six wickets for 50 runs [6/50].

Not only this, the 30-year-old all-rounder has been trained by the great Dennis Keith Lillee at the prestigious MRF Pace Academy, Chennai, in India. Lillee, a former Australian pacer rated as the “outstanding fast bowler of his generation”, was renowned for his fiery temperament, ‘never-say-die’ attitude and popularity with the fans. Samiullah has already attended three conditioning camps at the MRF. He has received training along with Sreeshant, Munaf Patel and other Indian bowlers. He has also bowled at Little Master Sachin Tendulkar in the nets. An engineer by profession, Samiullah did his Masters in Information Technology [MIT) from the National Institute of Technology, Srinagar.

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