Pervez Rasool as a mascot

How political selfishness of his ‘admirers’ is damaging the professional image of Kashmir’s first ever self-made national level cricketer
Non-playing status of first ever Kashmiri cricket player, Pervez Rasool, selected to represent India in an international match has become a hot topic of public discussion in his homeland. As happens in such cases, genuine disappointment is getting mixed up with pretention. Politicians, led by none else than the cricket loving chief minister Omar Abdullah, have taken it upon themselves to champion the ‘cause’ even as cricket professionals including those who have groomed Pervez as a successful bowler have, understandably, expressed displeasure over what they rightly perceive as politicisation of the issue. And politicisation it is, by all means.

For politicians in Kashmir these are really trying days. Most, if not all of them, have been worn out by the fatigue of stagnation. Omar Abdullah’s coalition has been a great disaster, not only for the people at large who are at the receiving end of this dysfunctional arrangement but even for the two partners as well who, to be honest, make no secret of how poorly they look at each other. Rest of the ‘players’ are caught up in a whirlpool-like situation. Nothing seems to be moving on the ground even as they continue to go around circles of their own making.

Pervez Rasool’s exclusion from the playing eleven in Zimbabwe one-day series came as god-send to them all. Omar Abdullah took cudgels on Pervez’s behalf and went on to underline its ‘frustrating’ impact upon him and, by implication, upon the Kashmiri youth in general. Others have picked up the theme according to their respective political convenience. For sure, none of them, including Omar Abdullah whose father Dr Farooq Abdullah is virtually the life-long president of the state cricket association, has had any role in facilitating or fashioning Pervez’s cricketing career. If anything, the JK cricket association is guilty of squandering huge funds and neglecting its primary duty of grooming youngsters. Instead of beating their breast now, they ought to be explaining why they failed in doing their duty.

The other aspect of this issue is that it was Pervez’s very own quest, talent and dedication, unsupported by his new found admirers in the hierarchy, which saw him through right upto his prestigious selection to represent India. Like other contenders, he had to prove his talent, skill and aptitude. He underwent frustrating moments like when he was defamed and falsely dubbed as a ‘terrorist’ while playing in Karnataka a few years ago. He braved it all because he was determined to find his rightful place. If there were any genuine well wishers and supporters they were his ordinary local fans who are once again genuinely dismayed at his exclusion.

Perhaps a more important question is that should sports be allowed to be politicised by self-serving champions of the ‘cause’? It is because of his political position that Dr Farooq has monopolised the state cricket association whose stinking affairs under his direct control are still fresh in the minds of the people. It has nothing to show by way of its achievement like grooming local talent. Cricket coach Bishen Singh Bedi has rightly decried politicisation of Pervez Rasool’s case. Pervez has acknowledged Bedi’s key role in shaping his bowling skill. In fact, it is demeaning for a sportsman to be ‘sponsored’ by extraneous elements, more to grind their own axe than to safeguard his genuine interests.

Pervez Rasool happened to have attracted the attention and interest of Kashmiri youth on his own steam. This boy from rural South Kashmir struggled hard and encountered frustration along the way to becoming a member of India’s national cricket team. He did it without Omar Abdullah or anyone else pushing his case. He has come up so far and, let us hope, he would also succeed in taking that last leap into the playing eleven. It is one thing to provide or seek concession in getting a government job on the basis of ‘sports quota’ and quite a different matter to assess a genuine sportsman’s merit for the ultimate selection. It has to be merit and merit alone, otherwise the team suffers and the player’s own career gets set back. Pervez is young and has many years to go. Having come thus far there is nothing to stop him from going ahead. He does not need crutches.

The problem is that our political class has got so used to short circuiting tactics that it cannot rely on merit or straight course. The mess created in the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi is a case in point. In politics too, they look for short cuts. Dynastic hegemony and its by-products today dominate the scene. They are always in the need for a mascot. Pervez Rasool happened to be one such mascot, though from a different field altogether. How could the political class hold itself back from exploiting it deceptively?