Will cricketer Rasool be a balm for Kashmiris?

Last Updated: Sat, Feb 23, 2013 04:34 hrs

In 2009, a Kashmiri youth was detained by Bangalore Police in connection with terror attacks in the city. The young man was held along with few others but was later released and all charges against him were dismissed. Parvez Rasool finds himself in the spotlight yet again, but for the right reasons.

There have been reports that Rasool could soon be called to play for the Indian cricket team. The government is keen to defuse the tense situation in the Kashmir valley caused by Afzal Guru’s hanging, and is nudging to include Rasool in the team.

Senior BCCI office bearer Rajeev Shukla was quoted as saying: “We have always wanted Jammu & Kashmir cricket to be promoted. The official policy of the government has always been to promote sports in the region.”

Rasool’s rise has been meteoric in the domestic cricket circuit. Born in Bijbehara, a village in the Anatnag district, Rasool took up playing cricket in school and was soon playing at the district level. Rasool’s father too played cricket at the district level.

Rasool moved to Srinagar in 2008 and two years later was selected to play for the Jammu & Kashmir Ranji team. Anantnag used to be the hot bed of militancy when Rasool started playing but in an earlier interview he said that he was too focused on cricket and didn’t let the tensions affect him.

For the first three years in domestic cricket, Rasool continued to play for J&K but didn’t make an impact. His breakthrough came last year when he took 33 wickets at an average of 31.07 and scored 594 runs at an average of 38.57. Rasool is an off-spinner but is a handy batsman as well and he showed that when he scored a quickfire 171 against Goa in a Ranji trophy game last season.

It was under legendary left-arm spinner Bishen Singh Bedi’s tutelage that Rasool started to develop as a spinner. Bedi took over as coach of the state team in 2012 and Rasool has said that Bedi’s influence has been immense in his short career. Rasool started off as a batsman who could bowl a bit but Bedi told him that “he was the best off spinner in the team.”

That instilled confidence in Rasool and he went on to become the highest wicket taker for the team. Bedi also called him a “rising star” and was confident in his ward that if he gets an opportunity, he will make it count.

When that opportunity finally came against England while playing for India-A in January he didn’t make an impact — he took no wickets and didn’t get a chance to bat. While England game was a disappointing one, Rasool made amends and left an impression in the recent game against Australia while playing for the Board Presidents’ XI.

He snared up seven wickets for 45 runs in the Australian innings and ended up scoring 36 runs in the first innings. It’s on the back of this performance that Rasool’s inclusion in Indian team was first mooted. Australian opener Ed Cowan praised Rasool after the match and said that he bowled with great control.

Meanwhile, the the India Premier League franchises starting take note of his performances. Though it hasn’t been made official, Rasool will be signed up by Pune Warriors to play in the 2013 season of IPL.

Apparently, there were a few other teams interested, mainly Kings XI Punjab, in Rasool but it was Pune who made the first move. Since he is an uncapped player, Rasool will be getting Rs 20 lakh as per the IPL norms.

Rasool could soon become the first cricketer from the Kashmir valley to represent India. He is a bowling all-rounder, a slot that is occupied by Ravindra Jadeja now — a man whose selection has been routinely questioned by fans and experts.

Being a Kashmiri shouldn’t be the only good reason to pick Rasool but if he continues to perform in the same vein as he did last year, chances are he will be in the Indian team on merit. From the dark days of being held by the police to knocking on the door of the Indian team, Parvez Rasool has come a long way.

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