Long power cuts in the Ashmuji village in south of Kashmir is a daily occurrence. So the Dar family was not following the live broadcast of the IPL auction where their seventeen-year-old son Rasikh’s life was undergoing a dramatic transformation. A phone call late in the evening gave them the big news of the teenage fast bowler being bought by Mumbai Indians.
The southern part of Kashmir has repeatedly hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons and suddenly the village had a reason to rejoice in the dark and frosty winter night.
“It was around 8.30 pm that we got the news. It is the happiest day of our life that our son has been selected amongst the best cricketers in the country. It just shows if you have the belief, you can overcome any obstacle,’’ said Abdul Salam, Rasikh's father.
“It feels great to receive so much of attention in the last two days. The number of missed calls in my mobile phone after the auction is staggering. But it also means there is added pressure on me because people will expect me to bag wickets every time I come into bowl. I like bowling fast and my idols are Shoaib Akhtar for his speed and Irfan Pathan for his lethal swing,’’ said Rasikh to Firstpost.
Rasikh, a right arm fast bowler, has battled many hardships on way to a berth in the Rohit Sharma-led franchise which bought him at his base price of Rs 20 lakhs. In the trouble torn district of Kulgaam, cricket has also become a casualty with important tournaments and practice games being called off due to curfews and bandhs. Extreme cold weather conditions have also meant limited practice opportunities for budding talents like Rasikh. Hailing from the remote district of Kulgaam, not known as a cricketing hub, did not help his cause. He had his share of disappointment when he was not picked for the state’s U-19 side initially.
“I was first spotted by Irfan Pathan (Jammu and Kashmir’s captain and mentor in 2018-2019 season) during a talent hunt where young cricketers from various districts of Jammu and Kashmir had come. He was very impressed with me and took me under his wings,’’ Rasikh told Firstpost.
“Pathan brought Rasikh to me and he was definitely a prodigious talent. His wrist position when releasing the ball was brilliant. He had a lethal inswinger which swerved late and he also very deceptive slower one. We realised he was still raw but if he was trained, he had the potential to become a great fast bowler,’’ said Milip Mewada, the current Jammu and Kashmir coach.
During a trial tournament staged to select the team for this year’s Vijay Hazare Trophy, Rasikh showcased his prowess with the ball claiming a hattrick. “The visuals of the hattrick went viral and suddenly Rasikh had become a celebrity in the cricket circle in the state,’’ added Mewada.
Rasikh was included in the Jammu and Kashmir squad for the Vijay Hazare Trophy and he went to play two matches where he picked three wickets. “He is by no means a finished product but he is never overawed by the occasion. In the match against Tamil Nadu, he bowled at Murali Vijay — a seasoned Test player — but showed no nerves. As a coach, we are working with him to develop his outswingers. He is very matured for his age and is a quick learner. Currently his pace is approximately 130 kmph but since he is only 17, he will add more speed in the coming years,” commented Mewada. Rasikh is not a part of the state's Ranji Trophy side and is currently playing the U-19 Cooch Behar Trophy.
Rasikh is the third cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to have found takers by the franchises in the IPL after Parvez Rasool and Manzoor Dar. Dar, a hard hitting batsman, was bought for Rs 20 lakhs by Kings XI Punjab last year but did not feature in any of their matches. Both Rasool and Dar were given a cold shoulder by the franchises this year.
Mumbai Indians have a star-studded fast bowling line up featuring Lasith Malinga, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Adam Milne and big ticket buy - Barinder Sran. Therefore it will not be an easy task for Rasikh to find a place in the playing XI. “I have already started working on my bowling keeping in mind that I need to break into the team and impress my coaches,’’ said Rasikh.
Rasikh’s father is a school teacher and believes that Rasikh has emerged as a perfect role model for his students who dream big but are often disillusioned by the political tension and violence. “Despite his remarkable journey so far battling the odds, he still has miles to go to realise our ultimate dream of wearing the India colours,’’ says Abdul Salam.
Cricket has often provided the solace and a healing balm in the troubled valley. Hopefully Rashik’s emergence will provide inspiration for other youngsters in the region to take up the sport more seriously.