SRINAGAR: Puddles of water and mud dotting a defaced turf of Polo Ground, the de-facto home of Kashmir football, gives an inkling of how hard the recent floods have punctured Valley’s sports sector.
Not only has the September flood fury led to massive devastation across the Valley, it hasn’t spared sports either; decimating its infrastructure, putting the shutters down on the sports activities—for this season at least—that were going on at a full throttle before the heavens opened up.
Football leagues were in their most exciting stages; Kashmir’s most followed indigenous cricket tournament-Downtown Champions League-was attracting many an eyeball, and Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association-custodians of the sport-under its new regime were all in readiness to prepare players for the upcoming season.
But the floods ensured there will be, in all likelihood, no play this year.
Major sports stadia-Bakhshi Stadium, Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium and Polo Ground-provide a picture of hopelessness with its infrastructure heavily damaged. So much so, first ever Astro turf ground at TRC that was completed after years of dilly dallying and crores of rupees spent on its construction and was inaugurated by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah a couple of days before Srinagar sank has been deshaped completely.
J&K Football Association has lost hope of conducting any football in the immediate future.
“It is all over. We have been hit hard by the floods. Majority of Kashmir has been affected by the floods and it will take years to recover from the loss. Most playgrounds are in water and covered by mud and we don’t think we will be able to hold any matches this season now. We are trying our best to get the grounds back to their original shape, but it is definitely going to take lot of time,” Fayaz Ahmad Sofi, president District Football Association Srinagar told Kashmir Reader.
Heavy damage to TRC Astro turf, Sofi says, was a body blow. “We had struggled so much for it and eventually had come up with a maiden Astro turf in this part of the world and we were hopeful this will raise the standard of the play in Kashmir, but floods have damaged it heavily, thus giving a body blow to Kashmir soccer,” Sofi said.
Likewise, the J&K Cricket Association doesn’t harbor any hopes of holding matches in Kashmir with its major centre-SK Stadium-in ruins. All the JKCA organized tournaments in Srinagar have been called off, and to pick various age group state teams, there will be only selection trials and no practice matches will be held.
“All our plans have been trashed. Cricket activities were going on at a full swing and various tournaments were being held, but like most of Kashmir, cricket has been also affected badly. We have been pegged back. We don’t think we be able to hold matches in near future. Cricket season is over in Kashmir,” said JKCA’s Joint Secretary Idrees Gundro.
“To pick Ranji and other sides, we will be holding selection trials at Kashmir University grounds. We have already shortlisted 88 players for that.”
For players, it is an iffy situation, not sure where to practice and prepare as the Ranji season is just a month away. J&K start their campaign in 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy on November 7.
“Obviously our preparations have been badly hit and cricket activities are on a hold. We have an important season coming up with list A matches starting on November 7 and all important Ranji trophy not far away as well. After our good show last season, people have lot of expectations on us but we aren’t able to prepare as grounds are in bad shape. In Ranji Trophy we are placed in a tougher group this season, for that we needed a hell lot of preparations, but floods have played spoilsport,” said J&K pacer Samiullah Beigh.
Beigh wants his colleagues to start training and practice at individual level till the administration finds a way out.
“We need to do something on our own. We can’t blame anyone this time, so we need to do things at individual level. I have started going into gym for training and fitness and am sure others are following the suit,” said Beigh.
A bruised Kashmir needed a much needed entertainment tonic; sports could have provided that. But, as of now, even sports sector has lost addresses of its playgrounds.