At least a dozen cricketers from the Kashmir Valley, including those who have represented Jammu and Kashmir state team at Ranji level, have presented a joint memorandum to the J&K Cricket Association (JKCA), accusing the team’s current skipper, Parvez Rasool, of “nepotism” and of “ruining careers of many talented young cricketers.”
In a hard-hitting letter addressed to JKCA’s chief executive officer (CEO) Ashiq Bukhari, a former police officer bearing allegiance to a unionist political party, the aggrieved cricketers assert that under Rasool’s leadership “no one is allowed to express themselves freely.”
“It is all because there is no one to question him (Rasool) and he is taking all decisions (by himself),” read the memorandum, a copy of which is in possession of The Federal. Blaming Rasool for creating a “toxic atmosphere” in JKCA, the players contended that the captain wields unprecedented influence in team selection; so much so that “he has turned into a dictator” and “fears none”.
The 15-point memorandum further read: “No selection procedure, no clear cut shortlist, no announcements in advance. This is how things related to selection have been done recently in JKCA with Parvez Rasool calling the shots and making JKCA office staff do his dirty work. There is no transparency in the system.”
It further said that Rasool was “scheming” to adjust his “dear ones” and those “who will act like robots.”
The main contention is about the absence of transparency and accountability in the selection policy for First-class, List A and T-20 competitions in Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMA) respectively. Since no major competitions in any format are held under the auspices of the JKCA, the aggrieved players question the rationale behind the selection of players for J&K cricket team.
On his part, captain Rasool, while speaking to The Federal, rubbished all allegations against him as “laughable.” “One hundred and 10 per cent fair selection,” Rasool claimed, adding, “Let an unbiased and impartial committee be set up to investigate the allegations of malpractice and nepotism.”
In the recently concluded SMA T-20 Trophy, J&K under Rasool’s leadership failed to qualify to the next round while it also lost two out of three matches played thus far in the ongoing Vijay Hazare (50-over format) competition.
“If the process is unfair why did they (the players) come to attend the trials in Jammu?” Rasool asked. He also questioned the performance of the aggrieved players and suspected an ulterior motive behind their complaint. “How is their performance? Who is behind all this?”
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The players who have signed the memorandum include swashbuckling opener Adil Reshi, T-20 specialist Manzoor alias Pandav, talented pacer Shahrukh Dar, all-rounder Ishtiyaq Rasool, wicket-keeper and batsman Asif Khan, left-handed middle-order batsman Owais Shah, Fazil Rashid, and Umar Nissar, besides others.
Reshi has played 32 First-class matches for J&K. He came under the limelight with his memorable innings of 160* as an opening batsman against Kerala in the 2013-14 Ranji season and was the team’s highest scorer at the time.
Several former Ranji cricketers told The Federal they were surprised to see unceremonious ouster of players like Jatin Wadhwan from the Jammu region or cricketers like Shahrukh Dar, Adil Reshi, Mudhasir, Manzoor alias Pandav, Jehangir Lone, Owais Shah, Mehjoor Ali Sofi, Omar Alam, Shabir Nengroo alias Lefty, and several others from the Kashmir Valley.
Wadhwan, aged 26, averages 35 with a healthy strike rate of 121 in T20s. He has scored 594 runs in only 21 T-20 matches in SMA competitions. Laced with five fifties with an unbeaten 70* as his highest score, he’s well respected as a T-20 specialist. But he was not part of the J&K squad that featured in the SMA Trophy and instead Ram Dayal and Bandeep Singh were given preferential treatment.
The players’ memorandum also accused Rasool of creating an “urban-rural divide” in the team. Senior cricketers complained that talented cricketers from capital Srinagar, central districts of Budgam and Ganderbal, and north Kashmir’s Baramullah and Kupwara districts were being ignored for no rhyme or reason. They accused Rasool of giving preference to players from his home district Anantnag in south Kashmir and the neighbouring Pulwama.
“Mehjoor Ali,Omar Alam, Jehangir Lone, Jatin, Pandav, Owais and Shahrukh should have been part of team J&K in T20s and List-A games,” said a senior cricketer.
Former captains of the J&K cricket team too have expressed dismay over the manner in which the game was being run in Jammu and Kashmir.
Samiullah Beigh, a former J&K skipper who represented the state for 14 years in Ranji Trophy, said elsewhere, former cricket legends run cricketing affairs, but in J&K “professionalism and transparency remain alien concepts.” “It is such a pity that even the selectors are handpicked here so that they can be managed like puppets,” Beigh told The Federal.
Moreover, he said the requirement, as per the Lodha Committee recommendations, is that a Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) has to select the selectors through a transparent process. “The CAC has to make everything about selection procedure public through notifications in both electronic and print media, but here the cricketers get to know about the trials and selection matters at the last minute.”
Recently, another former captain, Abid Nabi, also accused Rasool of “abuse of power.”
The JKCA has gained notoriety due to serious allegations of corruption, political interference in cricketing affairs, and also the clout that elite clubs enjoy.
In December 2017, the J&K High Court had appointed a former deputy inspector general of J&K police as the CEO of JKCA and a retired judge as the ombudsman (mediator) for settling disputes within the governing body. However, under the leadership of the cricket administrator, hardly any competitive cricket (two-day, one day or T-20 formats) has been organised in the Kashmir Valley during the last three years.
The situation worsened after August 5, 2019, when special status of the erstwhile state was revoked. In 2020, another prolonged lockdown due to the pandemic ensured that there was no or limited cricketing activity in the region. In Jammu region, some odd matches were held (for trials and selection) in a hush-hush manner, raising many eyebrows about transparency.
In its six-decade recorded history in Indian domestic competitions (Ranji Trophy), the J&K team has qualified for the quarterfinals only twice and once sealed berth in the pre-quarterfinals.
Samiullah Beigh was J&K’s highest wicket-taker in the 2013-2014 Ranji season when the team sealed berth in the quarterfinals for the first time. He claimed 33 wickets at an average of 27.54. Overall, in 61 First-class matches, Beigh, as a fast-bowling all-rounder, has claimed 158 wickets with eight five-fors and five four-wicket hauls, and amassed 1,739 runs laced with a century and nine fifties.
Rasool debuted in First-class cricket in November 2008. In the last 12 years, he has scored 4,807 runs, with 12 centuries and 20 fifties, in 82 FC matches at a moderate average of 37.85. As an off-spinner, he has claimed 266 wickets. He also represented Team India in a lone ODI against Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2014. Form and consistency have eluded Rasool in List-A and SMA competitions. In 121 List-A games, he has scored 3,036 runs with a lone century and 23 fifties at an average of 33.
Meanwhile, it has been widely reported that the JKCA has summoned Rasool to record his statement in response to the memorandum submitted by the players. “In order to substantiate the contents of the memorandum by providing an opportunity to you under rules, you are hereby asked to attend the office of the undersigned…,” a letter sent to skipper Rasool by the CEO of JKCA read.
However, speaking to The Federal, Rasool has categorically denied having received any such letter.