For a teenager,Muhammad bin Qasim could not have had it any better. Like countless peers,he says,Cricket is my passion. But unlike the vast majority of them,he is not just a spectator. The Srinagar school boy has a chance to represent his state in an under-16 team for the Vijay Merchant trophy this season. But the opportunity may just be passed up. Muhammads mother,Asiya Andrabi,is not happy with this turn of developments. Andrabi is the formidable chief of Dukhtaran-e-Millat,an organisation that has devoted its energies to not just fighting for a separatist cause but also rabble-rousing for the enforcement of a strict code of conduct for women in the Valley. She refused to permit Muhammad to participate in the tournament even though,as he told this newspaper,he was representing Kashmir,not India.
Sport has always had the capacity to question our easy compartmentalisations,as Andrabi is finding out perhaps for the first time in her long career in separatist agitation. And,just for the sake of one young mans cricket dreams,it will be interesting to see whether Muhammads future accommodates his promise. Interestingly,Andrabi has problems with the game itself,not just with the team loyalties that may be imposed on her son. Cricket is synonymous with Bollywood,she says,cricketers are even auctioned today. It has not remained a sport any more, she announced sternly.
That may be a pointer to not just those intrigued by the overlay of identity and sport. It should interest those given to periodic puritanical assertions that cricket is not the game it one was,with creeping commercialisation. Commerce will be commerce,but the capacity of sport to ask deeper questions will never fade away.