Floodlit cricket match in Kashmir to light up aficianados' faces
Come March 18 and a new light will dawn on Kashmir - otherwise darkened by two decades of violence - courtesy the much-loved game of cricket.
If all goes well, a floodlit Twenty20 cricket tournament would be played next month for the first time in the history of sports in the state, 60 years after lights were used for playing day-and-night cricket matches in England.
The first cricket match under floodlights in the world was played on August 11, 1952, a benefit match between Middlesex and Arsenal club at the famous Highbury stadium in north London.
Given the "pathetic state" of sports infrastructure in the Valley, local cricketers as well as aficionados are still in a state of disbelief! In fact, the cricket initiative is not of any government authority but a group of young -- and obviously, enthusiastic -- entrepreneurs of Kashmir.
"God willing, we will write cricket history on March 18. A knockout club cricket tournament would commence with the first ever day-and-night match of the state," said Amir Meraj Shah (25), an IT expert and one of the organisers of the tournament.
Interestingly, the Valley's first floodlit match will be played in a north Kashmir cricket stadium, some 25 km from capital Srinagar, constructed by Army last year in the relatively peaceful environs of Ganderbal.
Last year, the state's first Twenty20 premier league was also played on this ground, which is the home constituency of chief minister Omar Abdullah.
Shah said that the idea came after observing the pathetic state of cricket infrastructure in J-K despite 'fanatical following of cricket' among its people, both young and old.
"Although I am not a cricket buff, I know how the youth associate with cricket in Kashmir. We have seen offices, markets and even educational institutions close early to watch international cricket teams play," Shah, a post-graduate in Computer Applications, said.
"In our case more than 50 teams and clubs have already registered and more are coming. We have decided to restrict it to 64 teams," he said.
The group has already acquired some equipment and is expected to receive some more in coming days.
"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 group has already got permission from state administration and security agencies.
"They have informed us about the initiative. It will be a wonderful thing for Kashmir; there is no doubt about that. I just want them to have proper arrangements in place," said additional district magistrate of Ganderbal, Mohammad Haroon Malik.
"After some day we will inspect their work," he said.
Sports lovers also are equally ecstatic. "Unbelievable," reacted Jan Mohammad Lone (29), an ardent cricketer, who works as a counsellor in an NGO working for mental health.
"We dream of watching even one international Twenty20 cricket match here, that too in broad daylight. How could I expect a day-and-night match? You know how crazy we are for cricket and this will be something amazing," he said.
There has been very less development of sports infrastructure in the state, particularly after militancy broke out in 1989.
Just two international cricket matches had been played in Kashmir before the eruption of militancy.
The first was between India and Clive Lloyd's West Indies in the autumn of 1983, known for the incident of pitch- digging allegedly by a group of young Kashmiris, who later on went to become militant commanders.
The last international cricket match was held in Srinagar's Sher-e-Kashmir cricket stadium between India and Australia in the autumn of 1986.