From uncertainty to rise to the top, J&K’s remarkable Ranji Trophy journey

Despite the preparations being hampered, J&K played some aggressive cricket to top the Elite Group C table with 39 points, and is just one game away from qualifying for the quarterfinals.

Parvez Rasool said the team has been largely successful because of the facilities made available to them by the administrators.   -  File Photo

 

Life hasn’t been a bed of roses for the cricketers from Jammu and Kashmir. Ever since the Indian government decided to abrogate Article 370 — which granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir — in August last year, there was an uncertainty on whether the team would be able to feature in the BCCI affiliated tournaments.

There were curfews in most parts of the valley. And consequentially, the cricketers missed out on activities for more than a month. To make matters worse, a communication clampdown led to Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) pulling out of the Vizzy Trophy.

While all this did have an impact on their preparation, the players ensured that they made the most of the opportunities that came their way.

That has been evident as Jammu and Kashmir played some aggressive cricket to top the Elite Group C table with 39 points, and is just one game away from qualifying for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals.

On Wednesday, the Parvez Rasool-led side will face Haryana in Jammu in its last group league fixture and a first-innings lead will be enough to go through to the quarterfinals. “This season, all the players have contributed to the team’s success and we will go all-out in the last match as well,” Rasool told Sportstar on Tuesday.

Having played the game at the highest level, Rasool understands that a bit of slip-up could dent the team’s hopes of reaching the last-eight stage. “Our primary target is to ensure three points and then go for the kill. This season, we have played some really good cricket and it would be really unfortunate, if we can’t qualify from here,” a cautious Rasool said.

With five out of the ten teams in the group battling for the top-two slots, the road ahead is challenging. But then, Jammu and Kashmir would still stay in contention even if it goes down to Haryana. The equation, however, would become a bit complicated — Odisha has to either lose to Jharkhand or at the most bag a first-innings lead. And also, Services shouldn’t get a bonus point against Chhattisgarh.

“We don’t want to go into so much calculations. Our target is simple — play to your strength and ensure that we reach the next stage, without relying on others,” Rasool said.

For his team, the biggest advantage is playing at home. “We know the conditions well and that should help us,” the captain said.

Jammu and Kashmir hasn’t reached the last-eight stage since the 2013-14 season and all the players know that here is an opportunity to create history again.

“We have taken professional approach for the last couple of years and this is the outcome. There have been proper camps, proper facilities and most importantly, there has been a great team bonding. We are reaping benefits from that.” — Parvez Rasool, J&K captain

“We have taken professional approach for the last couple of years and this is the outcome. There have been proper camps, proper facilities and most importantly, there has been a great team bonding. We are reaping benefits from that,” Rasool said, making it clear that with former India international Irfan Pathan joining the side as its mentor, things have improved immensely.

“Irfan bhai has given the boys an international exposure and his guidance has helped the youngsters. The result is out in the open,” Rasool said.

Pathan, who featured as a player cum mentor last season and was named the mentor this time around, believes that the biggest challenge was to spot the brightest talents. “Because of the diversity of the state, biggest challenge was to play as an unity and get the right candidates. The selection process was important and a lot of players have come from districts. That’s a big development,” Pathan said.

“As a mentor, I also had the added responsibility of being a part of the selection committee as well. That made the difference. I could speak to the boys with authority. Working together with Parvez, we made sure that the selection was right,” Pathan said.

Ahead of the season, Pathan and the team’s coach Milap Mewada had ensured that the game did not get affected despite turmoils in the state. The team moved to Vadodara ahead of the Vijay Hazare Trophy to train and that eventually helped the players.

“It was a blessing in disguise. Baroda had a good side and we defeated them 3-0 in practice games. That gave the boys a confidence. No matter how many camps we do, it was important for them to go out and start winning games. That’s what happened,” the mentor said.

Even Rasool agreed. “A few years ago, there was not much support, but now, things have improved. The current administrators have ensured we get all the facilities. Now, we even have a throw-down specialist — something not many Ranji Trophy teams have. And all these things have brought in positivity in the camp,” he said.

When the season started, not many expected Jammu and Kashmir to go far, but with hard work and determination, the young guns have battled the odds to live their dreams.

A last-eight berth is in the offing after seven long years, and Rasool’s men don’t want to miss the bus!

  Dugout videos