Parvez Rasool is a © IANS
Parvez Rasool belongs form Bijbeharain of South Kashmir — a place renowned for Kashmir willow bats  © IANS

Though he has played only one One-Day International (ODI) for India, Parvez Rasool of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is a familiar name in Indian cricket. The popularity of this soft-spoken off-spinning all-rounder from Bijbeharain, of South Kashmir — a place renowned for Kashmir willow bats — is not less than the likes of Virat Kohlis and MS Dhonis in his part of the world. A state where gunfire and curfews are daily affairs, where the  Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) are keen to control the entire region, Rasool dared to take bat and ball to establish a different identity of him and for his people. Sandipan Banerjee takes an exclusive interview of the cricketer, who has had lots of ups and downs not only in his career, as well as in his life.

Whenever we try to imagine what heaven looks like, one of two pictures appears in our mind. The first is the imaginary land of gods and nymphs and ambrosia and angels what-not formed over ages by mythology. The second is — to speak simply —Kashmir. This beautiful little valley in the lap of the Himalayas is truly a paradise on earth.  But like Milton’s, this Paradise also has a scar, torturing its inhabitants since 1947.

This state has been disputed acrimoniously between India and Pakistan since partition and provoked two full-scale wars, in 1947-48 and 1965 and a shorter conflict in 1998, in Kargil. In the middle of this international dispute, the locals had to suffer a lot. Though there is an elected state government, however, because of AFSPA, there is a complete lack of freedom.

When India played an ODI against West Indies at Srinagar in 1983-84, the crowd booed the “home side” before a ball was bowled. It was clear they did not care much for the Indian side. READ: India face hostility from Srinagar crowd and West Indies

However, amongst all this, one Kashmiri dared to take up the challenge, not with gun, but with bat and ball. He is Parvez Rasool, the first Kashmiri (Other than Suresh Raina, who is a Kashmiri Pandit but belongs from Uttar Pradesh) to play international cricket for India. CricketCountry managed to catch up with him in a candid interview, where he shared the story of his life…

Here are excerpts of the interview:

Cricket Country (CC): So, Parvez, how did all this start? Why did you take up up cricket as a profession?

Parvez Rasool (PR): The credit goes to my father Ghulam Rasool Zargar and my brother Asif Rasool. My father was an all-rounder. He was quite famous for his cricketing skills. My brother, a fast bowler, has played junior cricket and T20 cricket for the senior team of our state. I learnt the game form both of them.    

CC: How tough it was playing cricket in a place that always grabbed headline for wrong reasons?

PR: We are Kashmiris. Nothing comes to us without a struggle. It was very tough back in those days. But I worked hard, really hard. There was hardly any turf wicket. My father used to take me 50 miles to Srinagar regularly to give me the opportunity to play proper cricket. But there was lack of infrastructure. Even today the scenario hasn’t changed. Young cricketers are still suffering, getting frustrated and leaving the game.

My father used to take me 50 miles to Srinagar regularly to play cricket.

CC: Despite everything you ended up doing what you love to do — playing cricket. It’s an achievement in itself. Isn’t it?

PR: You can say so. I think my job is playing cricket, performing on the field and that’s what I have done, always.

CC: What is Bishan Singh Bedi’s role in your career?

PR: Huge. “Bedi-Sir ke aane ke baad Kashmir mein cricket hi change ho gaya.” [Cricket in Kashmir has changed significantly after ‘Bedi-Sir’ arrived.] He inspired us like anything. I learnt the important pros and cons about my game, especially bowling, from him. Whoever I am at this moment is all thanks to Bedi-Sir.

Whoever I am at this moment is all thanks to Bedi Sir.

CC: Do you think the seven-wicket haul against the Australians in a tour match was the turning point of your career?

PR: It was indeed the turning point of my career. That was a tour game against a strong Australian batting line-up, which had all the big names. The pitch was turning a bit and I used my flight and verities and took 7 for 45. After this performance people started to recognise my potential. I got an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract after that. It remains a special memory for me.

Rasool’s figures read 28.3-9-45-7. His wickets included those of Steve Smith, Ed Cowan, and Matthew Wade. The Australians were bowled out for 241. When The Indian Board President’s XI batted, Rasool scored a quickfire 36. Nobody in the side scored more than him barring Ambati Rayudu.

CC: We have seen so far you have a stop-start career. You were first selected for the tour of Zimbabwe where you were not given an opportunity, even after India won the five-match ODI series comfortably with two matches to go. It must be very disappointing for you.

PR: Not only me, it would have been disappointing for any cricketer. I proved myself whenever I got a chance at domestic level. My performance in 2012-13 caught attention of the national selectors. I did well for India A. The opportunity came in the tour of Zimbabwe with the senior team. It was great learning period for me. I didn’t play a game, but learnt a lot from the tour. Kohli, our captain, gave me a lot of inspiration. Just after that series I toured South Africa with India A. Thanks to Almighty I got to play a lot of games and did well on that tour.

CC: The treatment was the same in IPL: you were given only 2 to 3 games, that too at the end of the season.

PR: IPL is a great platform. People like Akshar Patel and Karn Sharma made it to the Indian team based only on IPL performance. They got regular opportunities in their IPL teams. All cricketers need a consistent run to showcase their talent. An occasional game really doesn’t help. For a cricketer like me, IPL is an important stage, but unfortunately I haven’t got enough opportunities to perform. I hope I get a consistent run in future.

Over three IPL seasons Rasool has managed to play a mere seven matches.

For a cricketer like me, IPL is an important stage, but unfortunately I haven’t got enough opportunities to perform.

CC: You finally made your debut for India in 2014. Please take us through your emotions of that moment.

PR: I took 35 First-Class wickets in 2013-14 also made some runs. I was named Lala Amarnath All-Rounder of the Year. I was selected in the India ODI side for the Bangladesh tour straight away. I played the first game. It was a great moment not for me but for all the aspiring cricketers of our region. It proved if we trust our abilities, we can also make it to the biggest stage. I took two wickets in that match, but was dropped for the next two matches. READ: Parvez Rasool’s exclusion has greater sociological ramifications

Rasool’s 2013-14 record read 694 runs at 43.37 with two hundreds and 35 wickets at 32.11 with three five-wicket hauls.

CC: Do you consider yourself as a pure all-rounder?

PR: No. I am a bowler who can bat a bit.

CC: Do you think cricket in the valley will improve following your heroics?

PR: I don’t thing cricket in our state is heading towards the right direction. It lacks proper infrastructure. We have lots of talented cricketers but there is no one to nurture them. Everyone is busy in politics. There is no intent among local administrators to improve our cricket. Young cricketers are suffering big time. As a cricketer I feel very frustrated after seeing all this.

I don’t thing Cricket in our state is heading towards a right direction.

CC: How big was the win against Mumbai at their backyard for J&K cricket?

PR: That was a lifetime achievement for us. Beating Mumbai at their own backyard was a big, really big achievement of our cricketing careers. In the next match, we took a first innings lead against Baroda. Even prior to the Ranji Trophy, in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, we beat a strong Delhi side and won against Services. It shows we have potential that is being wasted; J&K cricket is not thriving due to lack of commitment among administrators.

CC: Are you satisfied of what have you achieved so far in your career?

PR: I feel proud of whatever I have achieved, but I am not satisfied. I want to play more. I want to represent my country once again. I also want to work for the improvement of J&K cricket.

I am not satisfied.

CC: Your plans for the upcoming season?

PR: Simple: work hard, keep trying, and keep improving.

(Sandipan Banerjee is a reporter at CricketCountry. Cricket has been the biggest passion for him since his childhood. So, when it came to choosing his career, he chose to turn his passion into his profession. Apart from cricket he likes mountain trekking, river rafting, and photography. His twitter handle is @im_sandipan)