To win hearts, govt pushes for J&K cricketer in India side

Jammu and Kashmir off-spinner Parveez Rasool. Photo by: Yawar Kabli, Kashmir Dispatch

With an eye on defusing the tense political situation in the state and building a local icon, the Indian government is understood to be pushing for talented Jammu & Kashmir cricketer Parvez Rasool to be fast-tracked to the national side.

Such a move would be exceedingly popular in the Kashmir Valley, where cricket has a huge resonance.  The central government’s stock is currently low among many there following the execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru earlier this month for his role in the 2001 attack on Parliament.

A source said the government had conveyed its desire to the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) through a senior board official. Not surprisingly, no one would confirm this on record.

This is not about showering undue favour on Rasool. The 24-year-old all-rounder shone this Ranji Trophy season, finishing as the highest run-scorer as well as wicket-taker in J&K.

The visiting Australians too found his off-spin bowling too hot to handle. Playing for the Board President’s XI in a two-day warm-up tie in Chennai, Rasool captured seven wickets.

Asked how keen the government was to see Rasool fast-tracked to the India team, senior BCCI official Rajeev Shukla would only say: “We have always wanted Jammu & Kashmir cricket to be promoted. The official policy of the government has always been to promote sports in the region.”

And about wanting a cricketer from Kashmir like Rasool playing at the highest level, he said: “The feeling is always that.”

The cricketer’s career is a great story of hope, especially in light of his brush with the authorities three years ago.

On October 17, 2009, he had arrived in Bangalore with his Jammu & Kashmir U-22 team when the Karnataka anti-terror squad detained him after allegedly finding traces of explosives in his kit bag. The player, staying in the Karnataka State Cricket Association during the inaugural Champions League Twenty20 tournament, for which security had been tightened, was interro-gated for around 10 hours in police custody before being released.

All that is well in the past now, and the young cricketer attributes his splendid season to the guidance of spin wizard Bishan Singh Bedi, who is the coach of the Jammu & Kashmir Ranji Trophy team. The former India captain sees him as a potential India player. "I look for technical correctness and he has it," Bedi said recently.

While Rasool has made a much bigger splash thanks to cricket's hold over the country's sports fans, Kashmir also celebrated when two footballers from the Valley, Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Ishfaq Ahmed, were selected to play for India.