From the Valley to top: How Jammu & Kashmir rose to top of the table in Ranji Trophy group stages – cricket

Jammu & Kashmir just isn’t fairly used to the feeling of being table-toppers in first-class cricket (they at present sit 4 factors clear in Elite Group C of the ongoing Ranji Trophy season), so it’s somewhat comprehensible that coach Milap Mewada allowed his gamers to delay their celebrations on Thursday night.

During the day, J&Ok had crushed Tripura by 329 runs in Agartala to register their sixth outright win in eight video games of this Ranji season, which all however put Parvez Rasool’s facet in the quarterfinals with a spherical of cricket to spare.

The final-eight is a stage that J&Ok hadn’t reached since the 2013-14 season. And, therefore, the turnaround for the group has been a exceptional one, additionally provided that they’d solely a solitary victory to present in the final couple of seasons. While the comeback could appear miraculous, these in cost of the group will inform you that the 39 factors they at present command has been no fluke.

“This just shows that all J&K cricket needed was a proper system, facilities, some professionalism and guidance. We got all that in the last two years after having had nothing for 50 years. And the result is for all to see,” says Rasool, talking from Agartala.

This system that Rasool speaks of was first put in place a pair of years in the past, as soon as former India cricketer Irfan Pathan, now a participant-mentor with J&Ok, and Mewada took over the accountability of scouting for expertise.

“In my role as player and mentor, I also participated in the selection committee meetings. What I found was that the Jammu selectors were only taking about Jammu players and Kashmir selectors were talking only about Kashmir players,” says Pathan. “We had to change the perspective of the selectors and the players. For us, it was no longer ‘Jammu & Kashmir’. For us, it was ‘Jammu-Kashmir’— as one.”

“We must have attended to almost 800-900 boys from all the districts,” says Mewada. “We identified them, promoted the talented ones to their respective age groups, and even fast-tracked some into the state team.”

In the group that took the discipline in opposition to Tripura, eight out of the 11 had been aged under 25 years. The group’s top-scorer this season, with 529 runs in eight matches (together with two a whole lot and three fifties), is Abdul Samad, an 18-year-previous from Kala Kot, who’s taking part in his maiden first-class season.

“Earlier, only players from Jammu and Srinagar would get into the team. That is not the case since the last two years. Any boy who is in the team now is on merit. The mantra is: perform and play,” says Rasool.

Once the proficient youngsters had been quick-tracked into the first-class group, the gamers from Jammu and Kashmir had been made to really feel equal. Pathan explains how he managed to pull that off. “Unity exercises. That’s what we called it,” says Pathan. “In the team bonding sessions, among other things, two Jammu players and two Kashmir boys were made to have dinner together.”

Investing in children is one factor; getting them up to the process is kind of one other. That’s the place there was a change too. Before the begin of the home season, a pre-season camp was organised in Srinagar, which had to be cancelled quickly after it started due to the abrogation of Article 370 in the Valley. But Pathan wasn’t one to hand over.

“When there was a curfew in the state before the start of the season, I told (Rtd) Justice CS Prasad (member of CoA) and Ashiq Bukhari (CEO of JKCA) that we needed to have a preparatory camp outside the state and they readily agreed,” says Pathan, who noticed to it that the camp was held in his dwelling city of Vadodara.

The numerous members of J&Ok’s suppose-tank all have their very own key purpose for the facet’s newfound profitable mentality. Captain Rasool believes it was their pre-season concentrate on expertise past batting and bowling. “Our focus during these camps was on fitness and fielding, which wasn’t given importance before,” he says.

Mewada, on the different hand, believes the intuition to win was honed with a easy questionnaire. “Last year, I prepared a list of 15-20 questions for the players. One question was: ‘Since how many years has the team been playing Ranji Trophy, and how many times have we won it?’ All the players wrote—45 times, zero victories. That is when it started pinching them, that we need to start winning,” he says.

The change in collective mindset was evident proper from the begin of the home season, starting with the T20 competitors — the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy. There, J&Ok received 4 matches on the trot. “All the things that we were working on over the last two years were starting to produce results,” says Rasool. “We took that momentum into this Ranji Trophy.”

Pathan received’t say it, however his presence in the set-up has made an enormous distinction as properly. First as a participant-mentor, then simply as a mentor (having introduced his retirement from cricket), who went out of his manner to carry the group to Vadodara after which helped them regulate into the new environment. The captain has nothing however reward for the former India all-rounder.

“When an international player sits and talks to boys from Jammu & Kashmir, they feel inspired,” says Rasool, who too has performed worldwide cricket in the type of one ODI and one T20I. “He (Pathan) played under me last season, but even I learnt so much from him with his international exposure and experience. So imagine the impact it has had on the youngsters.”

Coach Mewada echoes Rasool’s sentiments. “When process-oriented people like Irfan take charge of a team, the team is set on the right path. That is what is happening with cricket in Jammu & Kashmir,” says the coach. “But we are still a developing team, and we are hoping to do much bigger things in the future.” And, probably, in this Ranji Trophy itself.

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