Rasool breaks the jinx for Jammu & Kashmir
India's three-ODI sojourn to Bangladesh may just be a footnote in the international calendar but its relevance had been heightened in the state of Jammu & Kashmir once the team for the tour was announced. Parvez Rasool, who played his first match for India in Dhaka on Sunday, finally "broke the ice" and brought an end to the long wait in J&K to see the best cricketer from the valley graduate to the highest level.
Rasool didn't have to wait long to make impact; he struck on the first ball of his third over with the wicket of Anamul Haque to ease the early nerves that usually follow a much-awaited new arrival. Another wicket in the day must have made it doubly sweet.
"It is a proud moment. There was a jinx which wasn't breaking somehow," Samiullah Beigh, the J&K fast bowler, told ESPNcricinfo. "We always felt that somebody should break the ice so that cricketers can flow out of this part of the world. There was a mental block that our boys could only make it to a certain level - to zonals or maximum to India A level. We were not able to push it past the glass ceiling. That ceiling has been removed now.
"We are all very happy about it. The social media, the news reports that will come out tomorrow about Parvez Rasool making Jammu & Kashmir proud … there has been a buzz about this."
So very happy for Parvez Rasool. He's got his 1st ODI wicket with the dismissal of Anamul. Let's hope this is the 1st of many, well done.— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) June 15, 2014
The former J&K seamer and the current coach, Abdul Qayoom, who has been an inspiration for a lot of J&K cricketers including Rasool, saw the debut as a harbinger, a motivator, for the current and the next crop of state's cricketers. Coming through the ranks of the state cricket structure, Rasool has been close to most.
"The cricketers see him as the same Parvez who used to play with them," Qayoom said. "He has the same two hands, same pair of legs. So now it makes it clear for youngsters that if they play well, there is no politics standing in their way."
Since his selection in the India A squad in January 2013, Rasool's default introduction on anything written about him has always mentioned him as the "first cricketer from J&K to..", almost making him the de facto face of state cricket. The horrifying memories of 2009 had long been shelved. But the last step, that of making it to the national side, had been eluding him.
He made it to the India squad that played an ODI series, similar in import to the current one in Bangladesh, in Zimbabwe last September. Despite winning the series, the team management's decision to keep him out of the XI left Rasool, and his team-mates in the state, disappointed. Qayoom ensured he didn't let the despair set in. He told Rasool, "You are the one in limelight. Tu himmat mat haar (Don't lose your heart). Maybe the selectors wanted to see something extra in you, so you should work harder to rectify those shortcomings. They should see the difference."
Rasool did stick to the path of self-improvement, following up his excellent 2012-13 season for J&K with solid performances with both bat and ball in the 2013-14 season, during which he led the side too. He scored 594 runs that included a century in the quarter-final against Punjab and ended the season with 33 wickets.
The team took all the limelight that has come with Rasool as a boost, broke through to the Ranji knockouts this season and ensured an entry to the more difficult pool next season. The state cricket association, JKCA, has also buckled up and is organising early camps, five months before Ranji, something unusual in the state.
"Even till two years ago, we didn't use to get any cricket in the off season and were picked straight for the Ranji Trophy," Beigh said. "The new josh (enthusiasm) that is visible both among the players and the JKCA will have far-reaching consequences."
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo