Jammu & Kashmir is sadly not known for its cricket but one man has taken on the job to ensure the game flourishes in the valley. Indian veteran Irfan Pathan joined Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association as a professional recently and in his role of player-cum-mentor, he is desperate to make a difference.
Under Irfan's guidance and mentorship, The Sher-e-Kashmir Stadium in Srinagar is filled with a large number of cricketers, seniors and juniors, who have already started training for the next domestic season that is still 3 months away from its start.
This is happening purely because of how determined Pathan is to see J&K win what could be game-changing Ranji Trophy title for the state next winter.
Irfan, who last played for India in 2013, talked about it to SportStar recently and said, “So far, the camps are on in various districts of the state and we have made it a point to check out how the players are doing in those camps”.
While the other age-group cricketers will have their central camp soon, the U-23 and the Ranji Trophy players have already started their screening camp from Sunday. With the state’s star players like Parvez Rasool attending the camp, the cricketers have ensured that the house is in order much before the season begins.
Working alongside good helping hands of Milap Mewada and valley's only International Cricketer Parvez Rasool has been a good experience for Irfan. He further added, “The idea is to ensure spot more and more talents from the state. The target is to raise the level of the game. We will conduct regular camps,”
Rasool, who has seen what is wrong with the way game is run in the valley, emphasised the need for age-group tournaments to happen properly and most importantly, the selection committee members to visit these camps regularly and also said, “It is a first in Jammu and Kashmir cricket that we have started preparing so early. This will help all the players,”
After taking charge, the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators(COA) led by chief Vinod Rai has ensured that the state’s cricket scenes improve. Last year, the Ranji Trophy squad was named a couple of days before the tournament and the team could only reach Jaipur to play its first game against Rajasthan, a few hours before the match got underway.
Hope is what drives people in J&k and Rasool is happy for another sign of it. He further said, “This time the efforts are taken to monitor the fitness levels of the players and also make sure that every department is well prepared. That is a big thing for state’s cricketers,”
Both Pathan and Mewada have focused on the overall development of the players. Pathan reiterated, “As a senior player, I will always try to help out the youngsters. Improving the fitness level is a big thing and we must ensure that is well taken care of,”
The first test will be held on Friday, though Irfan said, “But, this will not be a fitness test. This is the first time these players are taking the Yo-Yo test, so it is important that we see where they stand,”
These are heartwarming steps in the right direction. The valley up north is currently in a state of war. How big a difference a Ranji Trophy title could make. How about Jammu-Kashmir producing its own Virat Kohli.
Whatever happens from now, as Taj Malik, the man who shaped Afghanistan Cricket, said in that famous documentary "Out of the Ashes", "You know...in this whole wide world, there are a lot of obstacles, worries..sadness, Cricket..is the solution of it all"
In Irfan Pathan, hopefully, Jammu & Kashmir has got their own Taj Malik to shape their cricket, their future. A future that is filled with nothing but fulfillment of hope.