All eyes on Jammu & Kashmir as they rub shoulders with big boys

Yuvraj SinghPunjab can bank on seniors like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh (not in picture) (IE Photo Bhupendra Rana)

It wasn't like Yuvraj Singh was oblivious to the prying eyes following his every move. For, many heads in the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) camp had turned around right from when he strode out to the centre of Moti Bagh. Those eyes remained transfixed on the Punjab left-hander as he bent down to strap on his pads.

Yuvraj soon began his stint in the nets, and it almost seemed like the J&K players had forgotten briefly about their own practice session on the eve of the biggest match of their state's history.

Even the coaches didn't seem to mind as they too indulged in some star gazing. You couldn't have blamed them either. This was one of those rare occasions that they were getting a chance to rub shoulders with an India cricketer, forget one with the reputation of Yuvraj. Not surprisingly they weren't shy of making the most of it.

The awestruck glances though will give way to competitive stares on Wednesday at Moti Bagh. They have to. It will after all be a day like no other for Parvez Rasool and his motley crew. The quarterfinal against Punjab will not just be a historic achievement for J&K cricket, considering that it's their first foray into the big league. It will in fact be a chance for Rasool & Co to prove that they belong there. That their cricket is not just about controversies and a perennial fight for survival. That their players too can make the news for scoring runs, taking wickets and winning matches. And all eyes will be on them over the next four days in Baroda.

Having said that, their progress to the knockout stages of the Ranji Trophy this year hasn't been bereft of the inevitable drama. Samiullah Beigh's return of 33 wickets was just reward for years of grind far away from the spotlight and his cricketing whites collecting grime in nondescript venues around the country. This year too has been riddled with controversy with a renowned coach quitting and stories of their match fees not being paid coming to the forefront. Rather than get bogged down like they have done before, Rasool & Co have managed to turn things around for themselves. It's been an up-and-down ride alright. Rasool should know. The season had begun with the J&K skipper being picked for the Indian team for the Zimbabwe tour-a barrier-breaking moment. Even though he didn't get to play a single game, Rasool had given his J&K boys a reason to believe.

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