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October 17, 2009
While cricket fans and a curious public followed the story through TV tickers, Sidharth Monga tracked a rollercoaster day for the J&K cricketers from close quarters
News : Jammu & Kashmir association want apology over player detention
News : Match delayed after security alert
Matches: Cape Cobras v Victoria at Bangalore
Series/Tournaments: Champions League Twenty20
The plans to celebrate Diwali were in place. The Jammu players had bought sweets to share with those from the state's Kashmir region, after which the team would hop over from the residential wing at the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) complex within the Chinnaswamy Stadium to the public stands for the Champions League double-header. Mithun Manhas, the Delhi and Delhi Daredevils player born in Jammu, had organised passes for the whole team, which planned on making banners proclaiming their identity: they were the Under-22 Jammu & Kashmir team, in Bangalore to play a CK Nayudu match next week. That was the plan on Friday night.
By 3.30pm on Saturday, the scheduled time for the toss for the first match, there was no cricket in sight. The J&K players had forgotten all about the sweets; they'd forgotten about breakfast and lunch as well. Overnight their world had changed after two of their players, Parvez Rasool and Mehrazuddin, were detained by the Bangalore Police who said they had found "residues of explosives" in one of their kit bags.
While life around them seemed to go on as normal - the crowds were being allowed into the ground, after stringent checks - time stood more or less still for the J&K players. Their manager and physiotherapist fielded the phone calls from home and handled the media with an assurance that everything would be fine, but were betrayed by the expressions on their faces.
Most of the team spent most of the day outside the residential wing, waiting for any news, any signs of their team-mates - who'd been accompanied to the police station by the coach - coming back. By then the anger, the bafflement - "They are two of the gentlest people you'll see, we don't know why they were picked," one official said - was giving way to pragmatism. After all what else could the police do? They were responsible for the security of the crowds walking in.
And so they waited. The start time of the match came and went, the sniffer dogs sniffed through the entire stadium (twice over), the Cape Cobras and Victoria Bushrangers players waited in their hotels. And the crowd inside the stadium swelled. The KSCA, whose kitchen staff for the residential wing was off for Diwali, convinced the team to come inside and wait, and organised tea for them. It was a squeeze - four players sitting in sofas made for two - but it gave them a sense of togetherness.
|the events of the day pointed to the world that exists, a world in which absolutely nothing, not even cricket, can be taken for granted|
Around 5pm came the news that the police had found no reason to detain the two cricketers any longer and also was satisfied with the security at the ground. As television tickers broke the news, the calls from home started coming in, followed by relief, handshakes and hugs.
It wasn't entirely over the J&K players, though - they had to wait another two hours before they were told that the two players had been moved to another hotel. The rest of the team followed, taking their 33 bags with them. Around the same time Cobras' captain, the victorious Andrew Puttick, was telling the media that Herschelle Gibbs pulled out of their match because of the scare.
By 9pm, Virender Sehwag was hitting Praveen Kumar for three consecutive boundaries, the crowd was having a ball, Rasool was resting in the new hotel, his team-mates hoped things had come back to normalcy.
For the brief while that Sehwag batted for his 29-ball 47, it seemed - as is usually the case when Sehwag bats - that not much else mattered, not the pitch, not the bowler, perhaps not even the scare. At the same time, the events of the day pointed to the world that exists, a world in which absolutely nothing, not even cricket, can be taken for granted.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?