With its spectacular performance so far in the Ranji Trophy this season, the Jammu and Kashmir cricket squad has made points and headlines with equal intensity. The odds it battled could have daunted sides with greater experience. But it surmounted them all – be it lack of adequate preparation in the build-up, quality and strong opponents in Group C matches, and disturbing midnight raids by the state police during an important fixture – and made it to the quarter-finals of the country’s most prestigious domestic tourney. This was the first time in the past five decades that a cricket squad from J and K has scored such a feat. For cricket in Jammu and Kashmir, this is a historic milestone.
The squad won admiration for the way it responded to tough situations, knit together as a team, and forged ahead, leaving behind memories of overall lacklustre performance relieved by flashes of individual brilliance.
The turnaround was powered by self-belief, talent, resilience, and the team’s determination to make its mark on a bigger stage. Last year, star all-rounder and skipper Parvez Rasool and his on-field brilliance were the only cheer for fans back home – this year, there are at least half-a-dozen players who have surged into the limelight; clear proof of the state’s vast reserves of cricketing talent. Old hand Samiullah Beigh, and newcomers Mudasir Gujree and Ram Dayal emerged as the most potent and productive fast-bowling combination this season, dashing opener Adil Reshi left no one in doubt of J and K’s potential to stamp its presence on domestic Indian cricket.
But for that to happen, cricket administrators – the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association -need to buck up and put their house in order. Cricket, not politics, should be its priority.
For an effective administrative set-up, it is important to have the right person for the right job. Credentials, performance, integrity, passion and dedication should be the criteria, not political affiliation.
To harness indigenous talent, and hone it into fighting force, the JKCA needs to improve infrastructure and give players facilities and technological aid to polish their skills. Technically speaking, J&K cricket is in need of turf cricket to accustom teams to what they encounter in first class fixtures, and the Association needs to plan domestic cricket in a way that players are engaged to the sport round the year.
A strong club structure that has three/four day cricket, merit-based selections for various age-group competitions, strong school cricket, and an academy or two equipped with modern facilities and qualified coaches is the need of the hour.
That the state has the talent has been vividly demonstrated by the seniors. It now requires a strong, committed and conscientious administrative structure to make this talent flower.