Cricket, the new definition of Kashmir

By Joydeep Das Gupta

It was mortar, shells, and guns along with army and terrorist raids, which surrounded her childhood in Baramullàh District of Kashmir. Apart from this societal taboo of a burqa clad girl playing cricket restricted her entry into the world of the sport, which is mainly dominated by the men. There were family restrictions too, but 15 years old Iqra Rasool turns all these blocks and obstacles in her favour by playing the game, she loves to play – Cricket. She has recently been selected in under 19 squad of Bengal Women Cricket team under the close vigil and scrupulous mentoring of none other than India’s former Women Cricket Captain Jhulan Goswami.

Things were not that easy for young Iqra, the journey of her life was full of thrones. Going back to her childhood days, it was one day which changed her outlook towards life. She was playing with her friends and saw a roundish object in one of her friend’s hand. Driven by her curiosity, she walked up to the man with the red cherry and probed its know-how. That’s how she came to know that it was a cricket ball and got introduced to the game of cricket. Having returned home she wondered what the game of cricket was all about and vowed to explore further on the nuances of the game.

Here starts her mission to explore cricket as she frequented to school maidans with her male friends to see this game and enjoyed to the fullest. Eventually, she got the feel of the willow and red cherry with her pals and savoured every glide down the 3rd man, hooks out of the park, square-drives piercing mid-off and mid-wicket, down-the-track sixers over the long-offs and long-ons. Red cherries kept her on her toes as its shine and stitches found her fingers to swing the ball both-ways. However, hailing from a highly conservative and humble muslim family turned her destiny into a nightmare. As soon as her elder brother came to know about her cricketing spree, she was beaten up and was told that this is not the game for girls. Iqra cried but didn’t stop. She used to follow Sachin Tendulkar on TV and used to write him letters to coach her, though they were never posted. As she says “the day other girls like me would be able to play cricket or whatever good they like to do and their parents and family allow them to do, that day will be my real victory“.
She didn’t leave Cricket, rather the determination increased fourfold. Soon she realised that with her burqa and pheran she will play no matter what awaits her destiny back home and the neighbourhood she is a part of. Encouragement and patronages from her teachers have always fostered her ambition to make it bigger and keep playing the game. Despite faring well in the game she was beaten up whenever her family members came to know about it. However, it did not trigger hanging boots for her. There is no looking back after that she played well in District and State level. Days passed, people started acknowledging her cricket and her cricket video started surfacing on Social Media and she become popular far and wide.
People from Sports fraternity in Bengal saw her video on YouTube and went to her place in Baramullàh and convinced her conservative parents to let her pursue the game. Unfortunately, their rigidity and obstinacy stood as a barrier as no one from her family ever stepped out to see her playing coupled with their humble background.

Iqra Rasool now wants to play for the state and then for India. As she has been chosen to play for the under-19 team, she has been practising hard at Aditya School of Sports. Everyone is impressed by her performance. “From the first day itself i have seen in her a determination to do something, she is very hardworking and want to do something” says Beauty, Iqra’s coach.

Iqra says “i was beaten up then but now everybody Loves me, I want to see more Iqras coming up. Kashmir is not about terrorism, it is about people like me who wants to do something different“. Her ardent aspiration to represent India reflects and symbolizes the innate feelings and spirit of Kashmiris.

Kolkata, 18th November 2017