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Rasool finds his redemption in runs

Sidharth Monga

October 21, 2009

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Four days after he was picked up by the police on the suspicion that his bag had traces of explosives, Parvez Rasool finally did what he'd come to Bangalore to do: Pick up a bat, get in the middle, and play some cricket.

And how. Coming in at No. 3 for Jammu and Kashmir in their CK Nayudu Trophy game against Karnataka, he raced to 50 off 49 balls. The whole team stood up to applaud him and, when he came in for lunch soon afterwards, five team-mates and support staff went down to the ground to shepherd him in, tapping his helmeted head.

Rasool didn't last too long after lunch - he was out for 69 - and, after the day's play, mentioned three times in six minutes his disappointment at missing a century. He even analysed his dismissal: "I lost my concentration a bit…I didn't get close enough to the pitch of the ball."

Yet once the dry detail was done, he could focus on the bigger issue. "I wanted to prove I am a cricketer, not a terrorist," he said. "That we are here to play cricket."

Ironically, Rasool shouldn't even have been here in the first place. He was picked for the senior Twenty20 domestic tournament but the J&K association felt he was needed more in the Under-22 version; last year he had helped them qualify for the tournament's elite division.

Once here, things unravelled pretty fast at the Chinnaswamy Stadium's residential complex, yards away from the pitch, where he and Mehrazuddin were picked up on Saturday morning. The dramatic fallout included a 100-minute delay to the first of the two Champions League matches scheduled to be played at the same venue that afternoon but that was a footnote compared to what the two boys, their team-mates, and their family and friends back home went through. When Rasool was finally freed - no incriminating evidence was found at the time but his kit bag was seized for forensic laboratory examination - cricket was the last thing on his mind.

"It wasn't so much about what happened in the police station, I can understand that to an extent," Rasool said. "But I had never thought that by the time I returned it would be national news. That I had been accused of being a terrorist. That my family would be so worried. I had no idea all this would happen.

"I couldn't sleep that night. I kept wondering how all this happened. Why this happened. I thought then, 'what's the point of playing cricket here now'. But then my parents, who are very supportive of my cricket and want me to do well in the game, and the [J&K] association convinced me to stay on."

Similar thoughts ran through the mind of the team's coach, Abdul Qayoom. "I had also decided I would take this team away from here," he said. "But our association said they would take care of outside matters and that we needed to concentrate only on the cricket. And until we get a green signal, the forensic report, we will stay put.

"Because we are Kashmiri, because of the bad times we have been through, we are the subject of so much suspicion. Now you see, when we go to Mumbai to play our next match, we will be viewed with suspicion again because of all this."

Qayoom has a two-pronged strategy for his team. To the public, they will send out a message of silent protest by wearing black armbands when they go out to field on Thursday. And Rasool has already demonstrated his cricket credentials with his innings today.

Within the team, though, Qayoom had to use a more mature approach. "The biggest challenge has been to try and make them forget that day. When we came here for nets yesterday, I told them, 'Just imagine this is your first day in Bangalore, and we have a match tomorrow.'"

It was perhaps too simplistic a solution for Rasool but, by day's end, he had provided the most reassuring sign that things might have returned to being normal.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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