Srinagar Sherdils Take The Power Play

A league match at a Srinagar playground

A cricket league modelled on the IPL opens opportunities for Kashmir's cricketers

At the scenic grounds of Delhi Public School in Srinagar, Waseem Qazi, a cricketer from Zawoora, a village in south Kashmir's Shopian district, has come in to open the innings. Running in to bowl is Abid Nabi Ahangar, a strapping six-foot-two-inch bowler, a Ranji Trophy player and Kashmir's most famous cricketer. Very few spectators expect what follows — the ball disappears outside the stadium, not once, but many times. Qazi scores 81 runs from just 53 balls, including two sixes and two fours off Nabi's one over.

In the past two summers, Qazi, like many other youth of Kashmir, was out on the streets of Shopian, hurling stones in protest against the alleged rape and murder of two women in the district. Today, though, he doesn't hurl stones, only bats fabulously, taking his team to the final round of the Kashmir Premier League. This is the Valley's first-ever T20 cricket tournament, modelled on the Indian Premier League (IPL), and organised by the Army and the state government. The team names have a flamboyance familiar to IPL fans: Shopian Super Kings, Budgam Badshahs, Srinagar Sherdils, Ganderbal Gladiators and Kupwara Knights, among others. The Army sponsors the teams, and provides them cricket kits, and even ­refreshments.

In April this year, when all eyes were on the IPL, in a remote village in Handwara in north Kashmir, the commander of the Army's 15 Corps, Lt Gen Syed Atta Hasnain, announced the idea of KPL. "The motto of organising the KPL is to identify talent in the Valley and select two, three or four players who could play in the national team." Over the last two months, more than 1,000 players from 193 teams have played in over 300 matches in almost all districts in the Valley. The final round of the league will have 14 teams fighting it out in 50 matches, with the final match on August 3.

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