Cricketers in Kashmir say the training and the psychological support needed for good performance has gone for a toss as political muscle-flexing has gripped the state’s cricket association, even as a national controversy erupted following charges of financial irregularities at the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
The performance of the J-K team in the Ranji Trophy this year has been dismal, observers say, comparing it with impressive wins last year against strong regional teams like Mumbai. And for this, cricketers and enthusiasts blame the sorry state of affairs at the JKCA, thanks to a timeline dotted by a multi-crore scam, political infighting and allegations of favouritism.
“After the JKCA elections earlier this year, there has been major political infighting in the association and, needless to say, cricket has suffered. Practice has suffered and selection of the state team has suffered,” said a cricketer, who represented the state in the Ranji Trophy last year, but was not a part of it this year.
“The last year’s team was really strong. We had defeated strong teams like Mumbai and Haryana. But, this year due to favouritism, we did not have some of the best players in the team,” said the player, who did not wish to be named fearing backlash.
In July this year, Imran Raza Ansari – the sports minister in the PDP-BJP government – won the JKCA elections and replaced former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who had been the chief of the association for the past 35 years.
Abdullah and his supporters, who was re-elected the JKCA president for a three-year term in May 2014, termed Ansari’s election “illegal and unconstitutional,” saying he still had nearly two years left in his tenure. He obtained a stay order on the election results, a matter that’s still pending in the court.
People related to the Valley’s cricketing circle agree with what the cricketer said.
“The ongoing political factionalism is the reason behind the dismal performance of the state team in Ranji this year,” said Abdul Qayoom Bagaw, former cricketer and coach of the team.
“Because of this infighting, there is a lot of confusion regarding selection trials and preparatory camps, with players being divided. The time and practice which a Ranji team requires was not available to our players. Thus cricket practice as well as mental peace of cricketers both are being disturbed,” Bagaw added.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Ansari was quick to train his guns on Abdullah.
“The performance of the team has been dismal because Farooq Abdullah came up with the idea to form his own team. Players did not know what to do, where to go. It was absolute chaos,” said Ansari.
The political infighting reached a height when two teams claiming to be the original J-K Ranji Trophy squad appeared at Dharamsala to play against Himachal Pradesh in October, leaving authorities perplexed. The BCCI official at the venue finally chose one – the team selected by Ansari – against the one named by Abdullah.
A sources close to Abdullah, who could not be reached for a comment, said that some of the renowned Kashmiri players came out during the time he was at the helm of affairs, which speaks for his committment to the development of cricket. And also, he added, that it was Abdullah himself who had initiated the investigations into the multi-crore JKCA scam in 2012, which is now being looked into by the CBI.
Junaid Mattu, spokesperson of the National Conference, told Hindustan Times, “NC opposes the politicisation of JKCA by the PDP, and will continue to work against that. The PDP has used the entire machinery to politicise cricket affairs in the state.”
Critics say that there have been allegations of numerous corrupt practices by the current governing body of the association.
Ansari, however, rubbished the same.
“I won’t tolerate any hanky-panky regarding corruption. If any allegations regarding governing body members indulging in corrupt practices are proven, I will take strict action.”