J&K players disturbed by police search
Police searched the hotel rooms of the Jammu & Kashmir players after midnight on December 24, disrupting their preparations for the final day of their Ranji Trophy game against Hyderabad in Jammu. The unannounced operation was a shock to the cricketers and left some of them sleepless and angry.
Atul Goel, the superintendent of police (Jammu), clarified that the search was necessary since the police had received intelligence inputs about a "dangerous person" in the area where the J&K team were staying. "It was a very general and brief search. We were not targeting any hotel. In fact we did not even know the J&K team were staying there."
On Tuesday, after the third day of the match, the J&K players had retired to their rooms at Hotel Savoy. They were on 198 for 6 in the first innings, in response to Hyderabad's 514, with Hardeep Singh and Samiullah Beigh the not-out batsmen.
Hours later, they and their team-mates were awoken by the J&K Police, who asked for their names and identity cards, and carried out a simple search of their rooms. When some players and team officials enquired about the reason for the search, the police said they had the authority to do so and did not offer more information.
The incident provoked a strong reaction from Beigh. "Couldn't sleep whole night ... police came to search our hotel at midnight and questioned us for hours at 1.15 am," he wrote on his Facebook page. "We don't lock our doors as only our Ranji trophy team stays in that hotel. We are still feeling the shock and horror of finding uniformed people with guns surrounding us when we were fast asleep.
"Whether deliberate harassment or routine check-up, surely this isn't the way to treat a bunch of guys with national and international repute, especially when you are playing the most important match of J&K cricket history. Honestly am not expecting any wonders today. We may easily lose the game and hence the chances of our qualification to the quarterfinals may vanish."
The next morning, Beigh and Hardeep battled hard and made half-centuries but their 142-run partnership could not prevent the follow-on.
Although Beigh did not respond to calls on Thursday, his captain Parvez Rasool said the police search was part of a "routine" operation. "It was a routine check. But their visit did cause disturbance considering they arrived post 1 am, especially since we were playing the next day," Rasool told ESPNcricinfo. Rasool said he was sleeping at the time and the cops did not wake him but spoke to his room-mate Hardeep.
The J&K coach Abdul Qayoom defended Beigh's reaction. "The cops coming at 1.30 am in the night is not right even if it was a search operation. I can understand Sami's feelings. We were trying to save the follow-on. He was not out," Qayoom said. "Naturally he would have imagined a comfortable sleep before walking on to the field next morning to try and save the follow-on. But he could not sleep."
According to Qayoom, the police could have come in the morning or during the day instead of "disturbing" the players. And if they needed to visit in the middle of the night they should have had some concrete information in order to bother players.
Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association president Farooq Abdullah expressed his regret at the incident. "This should not have happened in the first instance," he said in a release. "Please concentrate on the game and ignore the unpleasant incident as an act of misunderstanding."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo