The Apple town of Shopian, which exports some of the finest quality fruits and is marred by violence and killings over the recent past, has something to cheer. Local girl Jasia Akhtar has become the first woman cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to be selected for India Red Team for the upcoming Challengers Trophy 2019. She is the first woman cricketer from the state to have achieved this feat.
There is a likelihood of Jasia being picked in the Indian women cricket team if she continues to impress the selectors with her good strike rate. With almost negligible infrastructure and other opportunities in her home state, Jasia went on to play for Punjab for many years and soon emerged as a quality player who caught the eye of selectors.
Only a few days back, another budding cricketer, 17-year-old Rasik Salam Dar from remote Kulgam district of South Kashmir made it the Mumbai Indian team of the IPL 2019. Rasik was handpicked by former Indian fast bowler, Irfan Pathan who is also coaching the J&K cricket team. Dar's debut is one of the keenly awaited ones.
There is also Qamraan Iqbal, who could be the next big thing in Indian cricket. Qamran who said he wants to become like the start batsman, Virat Kohli has impressed everyone while he was captaining J&K, U-19 side and then went on to play for the India U-19, B team. He also attended a national camp where India's top 30 U-19 cricketers were being trained.
Last year, Manzoor Dar alias Manzoor Pandav who is an all-rounder was selected in the KingsXI Punjab team for IPL. Manzoor's humble background and his rise in the cricket arena caught everyone's eye.
The J&K cricket team, captain, Parvez Rasool again an all-rounder was the first player from the state to play for India cricket team and has also played in many important national tournaments. He hails from South Kashmir's Bijbehara town.
Despite the unfavourable conditions back home, violence and zero infrastructure, the rise of these Kashmiri cricketers to the national and international level is a remarkable achievement, which speaks of the kind of talent the valley has.
Their passion for the game has made them beat various odds and they sure bring a little cheer to the strife-torn Kashmir.