Amid extreme cold, villagers at Marhama in south Kashmir have lit a bonfire to watch a cricket match. Mercury has plunged across the Valley and minimum temperature is several degrees below freezing point.
Villagers are excited as Marhama Premier League has attracted 64 teams from neighbouring villages after the ground got a pitch roller and a turf wicket.
Bringing this warmth in the freezing cold are four friends from Marhama who have bought a pitch roller, laid the turf, and maintained the cricket ground in the Village.
“We bought the pitch roller from our own money. It cost us over Rs 7 lakh. We also laid the turf on our own and are maintaining it as well,” said Amir Ajaz.
Amir, who runs a small cricket equipments shop, has contributed Rs 2 lakh from his earnings. So did his three other friends. He says they wanted to engage youngsters in sports and hope that one day some of the budding crickets from the Village make it to the Indian Premier League, and even represent team India.
“We have taken this initiative so that our village Marhama, which is the biggest village in Anantnag district, sends players to the IPL, international circker, Ranji trophey etc.,” Amir Ajaz said.
His friend, Khurshid Ahmad, an apple grower, has also contributed Rs 2 lakh. Even as Apple growers in Kashmir are in distress due to a price crash this year, Khurshid didn’t allow the slump to come in the way of his love for cricket.
“We want to keep the children of the area physically and mentally fit. This will keep us fit as well,” Khurshid Ahmad said.
Besides honing cricketing skills of budding crickets, organising tournaments in the village is also an attempt to fight the drug menace in the area. At the cricket ground, there are signs saying “no to drugs…And yes to play”.
Local cricket star Parvez Rasool, who inaugurated the tournament, is a role model for the aspiring cricketers. Mr Rasool is the first cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to represent India. He says the local initiative to make turf wicket in the village means a lot.
“It was impossible for boys coming from villages to play on turf wicket. It needs a lot of effort and maintenance. These people have done it,” Parvez Rasool said.
He said in cricket, wicket is very important, and those who play on a matting wicket often end up losing on a turf wicket.
For young cricketers, the initiative has given wings to their dreams. According to Sameer Ahmad, a turf wicket in his village ground is a dream come true.
“It means the life to me. I feel very happy when I play cricket,” he said.
As the bonfire keeps villagers warm while watching the match in extreme cold, Marhama has come alive with its own Premier League.
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