Did BCCI and cricket let down Kashmir?

While celebratory fireworks and crackers used in the Valley following the defeat of Team India in the final of Champions Trophy drew criticism, there were more to them than met the eyes

Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Gulzar Bhat

Few Indians will recall the name of Abdul Qayoom Bagwa. But if not a household name, his is a familiar name among cricketers in Jammu & Kashmir.

Bagwa from Anantnag was one of the highest wicket takers in the Ranji Trophy tournament in 1989. But while he was denied a chance of playing for Team India, a less talented bowler with an average performance found a place in the team. Cricketers in Kashmir still hold a grudge against the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

“BCCI has always been biased against cricketers from the Valley. Bagwa’s example is so glaring that we have never been able to forget it. How could anyone expect us to cheer for a team we were never given a chance to represent?” asks Sohail Ahmad, a young cricketer from Srinagar while explaining the celebrations in the Valley after India lost to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy final this year.

Indian cricketers continue to be popular but the long drawn out conflict in the Valley, the increasing alienation of the youth and the strong-arm methods being tried by New Delhi triggered the wild celebrations after India lost, say observers.

The alienation has been compounded by the poor functioning of Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, a BCCI affiliate that looks after the sport in the state. JKCA, like many other state associations is also plagued by rampant corruption and misappropriation of funds. On directions of Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in September 2015 registered a case to investigate charges of embezzlement against office bearers of the association.

Indeed, on June 21, 2017 CBI while seeking more time to conclude its investigation, informed the court that hefty amount of money have been siphoned off from the association’s account.

“Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association is a venal body. It is responsible to a large extent for failing to spot and nurture talent and provide young cricketers enough opportunities to compete at national and international levels”, said a former Ranji player.

“Even during the nineties when insurgency in Kashmir was on its peak, India and Pakistan played various tournaments but the support for Pakistan was neither so widespread nor celebrations so commonplace and spontaneous if Pakistan won,” points out a prominent political analyst on the conditions of anonymity.

Dr Shahnawaz Ahmad Montoo recalled the high fan following Indian cricketers had in Kashmir. But the use of the military by New Delhi to crush popular sentiment, had prompted people to celebrate the defeat of Indian cricket team as a vicarious satisfaction.

The Valley significantly hosted two one- day international matches (ODIs) in 1983 and 1986. In the first match played between India and West indies, a group of spectators tried to disrupt the match by digging up the pitch during the lunch break. During the second match-- played between India and Australia— some people celebrated the win of Australia and raised slogans in favor of Pakistan.

Since then few domestic matches, leave alone international matches, have been played in the Valley. Had the BCCI and the government more foresight, things surely could have turned out differently.

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