From religious bodies to sports organisations, political class and not experts call the shots in Kashmir. The power struggle over the control of such institutions only smacks of politics and not sports spirit.
The wrestling between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader and priest Imran Raza Ansari and opposition National Conference's working president and golfer Farooq Abdullah over the moneyed Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association, with an annual funding of around Rs 25 crore from Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), reflects the larger malaise haunting the system in Jammu and Kashmir for decades now.
When a golfer and a priest run a cricket body, one can get an idea how far it can go to promote talent in the state.
A cursory look at the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association’s history shows how this sports body became a fiefdom of a family. The posts were filled purely on the basis of exercise done during the polls and not on grounds.
The JKCA’s voting strength remains 64 for more than 50 years now. It tells a tale of its own. Since 1960s, the JKCA ensured there were not more than 25 clubs with voting rights for two members. Hundreds of applications for registration as clubs have been turned down by the JKCA at the cost of marring the cricketing talent. There was no move to find ways and means to give chance to talent through fresh clubs.
The JKCA’s move to allow seven institutions, mainly colleges in Srinagar and Jammu, as members with voting rights, weighed heavily on the association’s functioning. Since these institutions are directly under the control of the government, the voters would always favour those in power. On top of it, ironically, the state education department, which provides the talent, is neither the member nor has the voting rights, though youth services, entirely dependent on colleges and schools, has it.
In the first move to ensure that talent takes a flight through JKCA, politicians have to ensure that genuine persons contest for the president’s post. It can’t be a post-retirement rehabilitation programme to mint money at the cost of the talent that can bring J&K on the cricketing scene domestically and internationally.
If genuine sportspersons chair the president’s post, there is a scope to see democratisation of the JKCA that nurses the sports not less than a religion for players and the state too. The government institutions, if asked to vote for sports personality than politician, may not yield under the influence of politics but talent.
The government still has ways and means to maintain a constant vigil from the outside. The J&K Sports Council, an overarching body of all the sports bodies, already has chief minister as president and sports minister as vice-president. It can always interfere for any course correction required to bring derailed associations on the tracks.
Then why JKCA is so dear to Kashmir politicians? Except for BCCI funding there is nothing lucrative and politically motivating for politicians.
What it means for JKCA to be run by politicians? A case in point is cricketing talent Mithun Manhas who left JKCA to represent Delhi due to choking control by politicians over sporting personalities. So, there is no guesses why no golden period for J&K’s cricket has arrived ever despite talented players lugging it out for decades.
In this hi-tech era, J&K players are yet to have more than one stadium to practise. Around Rs 75 crore earmarked for the new stadium by the BCCI, eight years ago, still remains in the pipeline.
In the name of infrastructure, players are provided jerseys and sports kits. There is no gym facility. The rigorous practice on mat and turf remains a dream for the players. Our players are always caught on the wrong foot on the mat, which is altogether a different cricketing from turf, for lack of practice.
The battle between sports minister Imran Raza Ansari and Farooq Abdullah may have turned ugly with each lobby gate-crashing into the JKCA, the fact remains no president ever backed up the team of J&K when they played crucial matches outside.
Abdullah, who almost had become a lifelong president of the association, was seen more on the golf course than the stands to back up the team in the crucial matches held outside the state.
Of late, the JKCA became an investment for businessmen. A few, who own coal mines in Meghalaya, openly talk about the investments made in the JKCA. Of course, investments are made to make profit. The rut only surfaced in 2012 when the scam, which may run into Rs 113 crore, was unearthed only after money deals go awry between the association members. Otherwise, the siphoning would have continued without being detected ever.
The time has come for fiefdom's to end and sports spirit to take over the cricket in Jammu and Kashmir.