Jammu and Kashmir are playing real dogged cricket this Ranji Trophy and seem in no mood to let up after having broken new ground.

The unfancied team of our troubled state is in the domestic cricket championship’s quarter-finals for the first time and is giving star-studded Punjab the fight of its life in their ongoing encounter at Vadodara.

J&K skipper Parvez Rasool exemplified the team’s intensity best with a fighting century on Thursday. The team, however, fell agonisingly short of Punjab’s first innings total.

On Friday, he came good for the second successive day, taking five wickets. Punjab, however, fought hard and set J&K a target of 324. J&K knocked off 77, but lost 2 wickets. It sure is an uphill battle on Saturday, but J&K have little to lose and everything to gain.

Punjab certainly won’t make the mistake of taking a semi-final spot for granted.

J&K’s journey this season is as heartwarming as they come. No matter how Saturday ends, when an against-the-odds list is drawn up, this J&K team will be on it.

What about their match fees?

The J&K players have not been paid their match fees in two years. It has been blocked because of an ongoing inquiry into financial bungling in the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah’s father Farooq Abdullah, the Union minister for new and renewable energy, is the president of the association.

Now, Omar is as big a cricket lover as you and I. It surely must be disappointing for him that his state’s boys are not being paid their match fees.

He was cut to the quick when Rasool was not given a chance to play an ODI against Zimbabwe. Political motives thrown up as reasons for Rasool’s rise are known to upset him as well. He loves the game, so ensuring players get their dues should figure somewhere in the list of priorities.

Hear, hear. Here’s Rasool’s take

Rasool, who is tipped to play for India someday, has already spoken his mind on the subject.

“You know, we haven’t got any match fees for the last two years. But none of the players has ever complained although cricket is our livelihood. I believe this is the dedication, determination and discipline that has made us believe that we can beat any team,” the off-spinner had said after his team made the quarters.

“Considering other state associations, we don’t even get 15% of those facilities. This speaks of the determination that these boys have showed in reaching this level. The quality of cricket at the first-class level has gone up and to measure up you need the best infrastructure.”

Passion driving this talented bunch

The team making it to the quarters made many sit up and take notice. But the response from the media in the state, Kashmir in particular, was lukewarm. According to a colleague from Kashmir, only one valley-based daily front-paged the achievement.

Come on, hail your players, support the team. Life is tough for a Kashmiri cricketer. No play is possible for at least four months a year due to snow. This bunch is hardy and sturdy. What is their fault if they have fallen in love with a game and are doing wonderfully well at it? Moreover, they are your torchbearers in a way that politicians never will be.

Spotlight of the unwanted kind

Rasool, who will soon turn 25, has survived a torrid experience.

In November 2009, the talented all-rounder from Bijbehara village in south Kashmir, hit the headlines for non-cricketing reasons.

In Bangalore for an U-22 match, he was detained by the Karnataka Police at Chinnaswamy Stadium for allegedly being involved in a terrorist attack. The police had claimed traces of explosives were found in his kit. He was released after a forensic investigation cleared his name.

Rasool has moved on, but the system has not.

Around midnight on December 24 last year, the police questioned some players from the team, which was in Jammu for a Ranji Trophy match against Hyderabad.

On the lookout for suspected Hizbul Mujahideen militant Qayoom Asgar, the police knocked on the players’ hotel doors at the late hour — before the final day of play.

Rasool later told a Kashmir-based website the police did not search the players’ rooms and only asked for identity cards. The Jammu police also denied that the players were harassed or humiliated.

The matter should have ended there. Sadly, it did not. Rasool faced flak from some Kashmiris on the social media. They accused him of underplaying the issue because he did not want to harm his chances of making it to the Indian team.

This man is being put through the grinder. From the looks of it, he does not need any favours to make it as an international player. Do him a favour, get off his back.

Be a sport. Keep playing.

Ipsit Mohapatra
ipsit.mohapatra@hindustantimes.com

Read More : Boy from the valley

Read More : Rasool fuels J-K’s dreams with a brilliant century

Read More : Parvez Rasool: From a terror suspect to Team India player

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