AFTER the Rajasthan players a few days ago, it’s the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) cricketers who are now caught in the cross-fire of a political battle between two factions and thus facing an uncertain future. And in a bizarre turn of events, the Valley is witnessing two separate selection trials for the forthcoming Ranji Trophy, with both warring parties-who are vying for the top seat in the Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) offices- set to announce their own probables list.
Both factions-one headed by former Chief Minister and JKCA chief Farooq Abdullah and the other by Imran Raza Ansari who ousted Abdullah in the recent elections-have also already warned players with dire consequences if they were to attend the trials held by their respective rivals.
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As a result, it’s not just the juniors but even the seasoned cricketers likes of fast bowler Samiullah Beigh who have been left confused, disparaged and clueless as to their immediate futures with the Ranji season just a month away. And as Beigh points out, it’s rendered their preparation for the season rather meaningless.
“Majority of the boys are going with the group which has occupied the JKCA headquarters (the Ansari faction). There are few players who are attending the other faction’s trials. We keep getting phone calls saying idhar aao-udhar aaoo. How can we attend two separate camps at same time? We are only human. I’m hoping that this issue is sorted out at the earliest. One faction (the one he’s attended) has already announced its probables list, the other is still conducting trials,” the 34-year-old Beigh explains.
The issue began with the JKCA elections that were held a couple of months ago, in which Ansari, the J&K sports minister, was voted in by 44 out of 64 association members. Abdullah-the veteran politician and leader of the Peoples Democractic Party (PDP)-and his lobby, comprising of 20 members had, however, boycotted the polls, and even moved court against it.
An excise magistrate, Amarjit Singh Langeh, had then stayed the proceedings of the JKCA Executive till July 31, and the court had passed an order stating that Abdullah will continue as JKCA president.
ML Nehru, a BCCI vice-president from North Zone and an Abdullah supporter, for one is bemused that the rival faction is even considering running cricket activities despite the court’s order.”If the court has ordered a stay, then how can they make a J&K team. Our selection trials are already on and we will hold a practice game before announcing the final team. As the other faction’s cricket activities have been stalled, it’s our duty to pick the team now. We will ensure players are not made to suffer,” Nehru said.
The players, meanwhile, feel that the BCCI should intervene in the issue before it is too late. According to Nehru, who revealed to have already explained the scenario to the present BCCI regime, it will be in the players’ best interests if the national cricket board tells them which faction to back.
“The BCCI should clear the air and tell us which group is valid and which is not. They should come and direct us. There is a big confusion and we need clarity,” says Beigh.
Iqbal Shah, general secretary of JKCA and an Ansari backer, though insists that it’s his faction that has the right to form the J&K team for the upcoming season, and is confident that the issue will be sorted out at the earliest.
“Majority of the players are attending our camp right now. Even our new coach and captain Mithun Manhas are practicing with them. This rival faction is just trying to mislead people but the matter will be cleared in a few days. We have sent all copies, including the minutes of the JKCA meeting to BCCI. The court will pass its order soon and we will send it to the BCCI as soon as we receive it,” said Shah, even as Beigh & Co remain shrouded in doubt and uncertainty.