Bright sparks illuminate Kashmiri
cricket By Sana Altaf
SRINAGAR - While the Jammu and Kashmir
Cricket Association is hogging headlines over the
alleged embezzlement of sports funds, Kashmiri
youth are gearing up to write a new chapter in
Kashmir's cricket history.
If all goes
well, Kashmir will host its first floodlit
day-night Twenty20 cricket tournament on March 18,
six decades after the first floodlit cricket match
was played in England on August 11, 1952, as a
benefit game between Middlesex and Arsenal club at
the famous Highbury stadium in North London.
The initiative is not a government
undertaking but was started by two Kashmiri youths
who own a small private web development company
"I am not a cricket buff. But after
watching day-night cricket
matches in other states,
I wanted the same in Kashmir," said 25-year-old
Amir Meraj Shah, who was moved to organize the
tournament after consistently observing the
pathetic state of cricket in Kashmir, despite the
massive presence of cricket fanatics in the
Most everyone from young children
to their grandparents are avid cricket followers;
posters of cricket players fondly find prominent
wall space in shops, on buses and in numerous
public places. Street cricket is a widespread
pastime, particularly during the frequent strikes
The tournament is scheduled to
be played in a North Kashmir cricket stadium some
25 kilometers from the capital Srinagar, in the
same place that hosted the state's first Twenty20
premier league last year, and will include four
matches of 20 overs each. The first three will
take place during the day and the final match will
be played at night.
The tournament can
accommodate 64 teams and already 25 teams from
Jammu and Kashmir have registered.
Together, Shah and his friends are ironing
out all the details and managing all the expenses
of the tournament with no support from the Cricket
Association or any other government organization.
"We had asked the Cricket Association for
dimensions of (flood)lighting but they denied
knowing anything about it," Shah told IPS. The
organizers have secured permission from all the
necessary authorities and security agencies for
"We have done all the
preparations on our own, with the help of friends.
Our electrical engineers are already on the job of
setting up lights. The diesel generators and poles
have been acquired and mounting will start in a
day or two," Shah said. The venue can hold 210
spectators under covered seating.
Meanwhile, two officials from the Jammu
and Kashmir Cricket Association have been accused
of siphoning off 300 million rupees (US$6 million)
worth of sports funds into "shadow" accounts
running parallel to the official bank accounts of
the association, which has been headed for the
last 30 years by Farooq Abdullah, former chief
minister and father of the current chief minister.
While saluting the young men's initiative
in driving the day-night Twenty20, officials from
the Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council claim the
organizers are not entitled to any government
"The Cricket Association or other
state sports agencies [can only fund] those
organizers who are registered with [the
government]," said Mushtaq Ahmad, a representative
of the Sports Council.
The prospect of the
event has thrilled the people of Kashmir who are
eagerly anticipating March 18.
"It is a
wonderful initiative. We have never seen a cricket
tournament in Kashmir. I will surely be a part of
it," said Mukeen Khan, a 12th grade student.
"The scam of the Cricket Association has
clearly exposed their work. Now it is the youth
who can change things," he added.
Habib, a cricket buff and post graduate student of
political science, believes that the tournament
will create history. She says that the people of
Kashmir should support such ideas by all means.
"It is nice that youth are involved in
reviving sports. But we all share the
responsibility of appreciating their work and
extending a helping hand too."
international cricket matches have so far been
played in Kashmir. The first was between India and
Clive Lloyd's legendary West Indies in the autumn
of 1983. In 1986, India and Australia played a
match at Srinagar's Sher-e-Kashmir cricket
stadium. Day-night matches have never been played
in the conflict-ridden valley.
activities took a major hit after the insurgency
began in 1989, with no major sports event held or
organized here in well over two decades. Indeed,
the Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council has been
almost redundant for years. Absence of
infrastructure, lack of required coaches and
training for youth has marred sporting activities
in the region.