‘They have not been able to contribute even an iota to promoting cricket in Kashmir,’ say cricketers of JKCA
Bijbehara: Restricting cricketers registered with the Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) from playing in local leagues, and the subsequent mail to Kashmir’s cricketing star, Parvez Rasool, accusing him of “stealing” a pitch-roller, is being seen as a veiled attempt to scuttle the growth that cricket and related infrastructure has seen in Bijbehara town of south Kashmir.
The JKCA’s moves come amidst an ongoing cricket league organised by the Bijbehara Cricket Association. “The league and the infrastructure we have been able to build in Bijbehara is making the JKCA nervous. They have not been able to contribute even an iota to promoting cricket in Kashmir, despite enormous resources at their disposal,” the cricketers that Kashmir Reader talked to said.
The cricketers did not wish to be named, for fear of reprisal by the JKCA. The association, which witnessed a recent change of guard amid allegations of widespread corruption, issued a notice on August 5 banning cricketers registered with them from playing in local leagues not recognised by the JKCA or the BCCI.
The decision was taken days after the Bijbehara Cricket League was started and cricketers from across Jammu and Kashmir were ready to participate in it.
“But with the ban by JKCA, all the cricketers registered with the association withdrew, for obvious reasons,” a source in the Bijbehara Cricket Association said.
The cricketers rue that hundreds of leagues have been going on in Kashmir valley and dozens have been permitted by the JKCA to go on but the Bijbehara Cricket League is yet to receive the required permission.
“Why the permission is being delayed is anyone’s guess, despite the fact that we have applied for a permission well before other leagues did,” the source said, adding that the Bijbehara Cricket Association has been able to produce a pitch like none other in north Kashmir, without taking a single penny from the JKCA.
Following this, the JKCA sent an email to J&K captain and the UT’s only international cricketer, Parvez Rasool, accusing him of stealing a pitch roller and threatening him of police action if the roller was not returned.
“You are holding the machinery of JKCA… Before taking any harsh step in the direction which may include inviting police action for breach of trust and in order to maintain a cordial relationship, you are directed to immediately return all machinery within one week failing which JKCA will be free to take action,” the email said.
Rasool called the email “unfortunate” and questioned the JKCA on the manner they have treated the only international player from J&K who has given his “blood and soul to cricket in Jammu and Kashmir”.
JKCA clarified later that the mail was to be sent to the district cricket association, which held the pitch roller, and the email registered with the association was Rasool’s.
The BJP’s Anil Gupta, who is on a 3-member subcommittee to run JKCA, wrote a reply to the mail sent to Rasool, asking whether “we have any proof to nail him down,” while he marked Rasool in the mail as well.
He later said that the matter was being “hyped” and the JKCA had written to all cricket associations. But this was not the first time Gupta was found spewing venom against Rasool.
Before this fiasco, Gupta commented, “Give him a long rope so that he can hang himself. He is definitely being propped up and has backing,” on a Facebook post regarding Rasool’s meeting with Lt Governor Manoj Sinha.
The controversy has died down now but cricketers that Kashmir Reader talked to see a clear design to the JKCA actions.
“Rasool is from Bijbehara and every development the game has witnessed here in the last few years has been because of him,” a state-level player told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the Bijbehara Cricket Association has purchased a pitch roller worth Rs 8 lakh and a pitch cover worth Rs 3 lakh in the last few years – all without the help of the JKCA.
“Bijbehara is the only place where there is a turf wicket. They are disturbed and embarrassed at the same time because JKCA has not been able to pull off anything like this,” the cricketer said.
Besides, he said, the league made JKCA officials jittery because it is one of the finest and most professional leagues being played in Kashmir right now.
Rasool has also been holding training sessions for young cricketers, where kids from as far as Srinagar come on a daily basis to practise. The cricketers questioned whether JKCA was even holding any such camp, let alone at such a level.
“Long story short, Bijbehara cricket has become an eyesore for the JKCA and they want to wind it up,” the cricketers said.
While the tussle goes on, the young cricketers in south Kashmir have been left dejected by senior players not being able to play alongside them in the BPL, and by the manner Rasool has been treated by the cricket association of his home state.
“We thought we would get to learn from senior cricketers, but JKCA did not allow them to play here. That is an absolute shame,” a 15-year-old cricketer, who identified himself as Aqib, told Kashmir Reader.
Another young cricketer said that he was really upset about how Rasool has been treated and all the negativity that actions of the JKCA have created has affected cricket enthusiasts.
Kashmir Reader talked to Sunil Sethi, one of the three members of the JKCA subcommittee, who said that there was absolutely no controversy and nothing against either Rasool or cricket in Bijbehara.
“We appreciate his contribution and what he has done for cricket in Kashmir. We expect him to contribute further to make the cricketing arena better in Kashmir,” Sethi said, reiterating what Gupta had said while defending the mail sent to Rasool.
He said that cricket in Bijbehara will be given more attention in the coming years. Asked why cricketers were not given permission to play in BPL, Sethi said that it was being done to prevent players from getting injured, given the fact that JKCA is conducting its own league soon.
“Other leagues were already going on and we understood that the players had already committed to these tournaments. BPL was yet to start. We need to understand that every decision taken by the JKCA is to enhance cricket in the UT and to try produce more quality cricketers,” Sethi told Kashmir Reader.