Srinagar, Mar 15: Until a couple of decades ago, warm-ups and practice sessions for most budding cricketers in the valley meant a jog around the park but now, they practice to their heart’s content and stretch every sinew to get better and better.
Like everywhere else in the country, cricket is quite popular in Kashmir too. Many youngsters pursue this sport as a career option. Yet, like everything else, the sport has received a cold shoulder from the state government. Hardly any decent facilities exist for training budding cricketers.
But cricketer Imran Dar and businessman Jahangir Ahmad Khan have taken upon themselves to right this wrong. The duo has come with an Indoor Cricket academy on the outskirts of Hyderpora bypass.
Imran Dar, co-founder, earmarked some land from his own property to set up the academy. “We started a small academy last year and set up a cricket pitch and nets in the area. We have received an overwhelming response since then,” Imran said.
The academy has set up a cricket pitch surrounded by BCCI certified green net where aspiring cricketers play. It is equipped with modern facilities, six turf wickets, indoor practice facilities, high end bowling machines, and a cricket stimulator.
The academy remains open 24*7 and has around 58 players of all age groups practicing at present.
“I longed to provide quality service and platform for young players to explore the game of cricket and have fun at the same time,” says Imran.
The young cricketer laments, “There is no dearth of talent here but platforms are few. After some initial hiccups, the dream of setting up an academy finally turned into reality last year.”
At the break of dawn every day, mostly teenagers gather at the academy.
Asrar Ahmad, 16, hails from Kupwara in north Kashmir. He has been here for the last two months and has shown remarkable progress. Asrar comes from a far off village and finds solace in cricket.
“My father and villagers saw me and encouraged me to concentrate on the sport so that I earn a name in the sports world. I want to succeed in cricket and live up to their expectations,” he said.
He said, “The grounds for practicing here are few and there we hardly get chance to play, as the space is already occupied by the senior players. This academy has come a great blessing.”
These cricket academy owners conduct trials regularly in the interiors of the state and scan the best talents.
Moreover, the academy is not restricting itself to boys alone. It wants to provide a fillip to the women’s cricket scene in a state where the game is associated only with men. Therefore, Iqra, a young tall girl of 18, gushes how the academy has helped her develop positive attitude and improve batting skills.
“I owe my fitness level to physical training during the practice. But more than that I feel a sense of liberation,” said Iqra who has been attending the practice sessions for the last four months.
Imran said that many youngsters still dream of playing for India. “If basics are right one can shine in any format of the game,” he said, adding that the main focus at the academy is on three counts — basics, technique, and fitness.
He said, “We reprimand if anyone take liberties with his batting. We advise them to stay focused and play long innings.”
On the progress report of the budding cricketers, Imran responds, “We maintain a dairy and note down the progress of players every day. We review their performance individually.”
He added, “We advise parents to focus on education of their children along with cricket.”
Women’s football team better than men’s, says Chhetri
New Delhi: The FIFA ranking says so and India football captain Sunil Chhetri too has no qualms in conceding that the national women’s team is better than the men’s side. The men’s team is currently ranked 103rd out of 211 countries, after being in the top-100 last year. The women’s side is currently 62nd out of 152 nations.
Chhetri, the poster boy of Indian football with second-most goals among active international players, praised the national women’s team for its fifth consecutive SAFF title win. “Extremely proud of all of you. I have always maintained that the women’s team is much better than the men,” Chhetri said.
The women’s team will feature in Round 2 of the Olympics qualifiers, which kick off in Mandalay in Myanmar on April 3.
I will be first one to hang my boots when time comes: Yuvraj on retirement
Mumbai: Yuvraj Singh’s cricketing future has been a topic of discussion for some years now but the player said he would be the first one to bid adieu when he felt that his time is up.
Out of national team’s scheme of things for good, Yuvraj has had a poor track record in the IPL but started on a bright note with a half-century for his latest franchise Mumbai Indians.
“When the time comes, I will be the first one to hang my boots,” Yuvraj told the media after MI’s 37-run defeat against Delhi Capitals in the IPL opener.
However, India’s 2007 World T20 and 2011 World Cup hero did admit that at times he felt indecisive about carrying on.
“The last two years, have been up and down (for me). And I could not decide on what to do,” said the 37-year-old.
Yuvraj said when on introspection, he found that he is still enjoying the game just as he did as an U-16 cricketer not thinking about national team selection.
“The main thing for me was why I played the game when I started off. I played the game because I enjoyed playing cricket. When I enjoyed playing cricket, I was not playing for India. I was playing for U-14s and U-16s. So till the time, I enjoy playing cricket, I am going to play.”
The veteran left-hander spoke to Sachin Tendulkar, who could relate with his situation as to how he felt when he was at the business end of his career.
“I have been speaking to Sachin (Tendulkar) as well and he has gone through that time when he was 37-38-39 (and how he felt). Talking to him makes things easier for me. And I am just playing because I enjoy playing cricket pretty much,” he signed off.
Zidane is the right man for the Real Madrid job : Mourinho
London: Jose Mourinho has said that he believes Zinedine Zidane is the right man for the Real Madrid managerial position.
Zidane was re-appointed as Madrid’s head coach earlier this month, just 10 months after he had resigned from the same position.
After Solari’s dismissal, many tipped Mourinho to return to the Santiago Bernabeu after he had been sacked as Manchester United boss in December.
Mourinho was Madrid’s manager from 2010 to 2013, but the Blancos instead opted to bring back three-time Champions League winner Zidane.
And Mourinho himself has now said that the Blancos made the right call, adding that the Frenchman is just getting started in his managerial career despite what he has already achieved.
“I do not think we can talk about a career for him yet,” Mourinho said of Zidane on Canal Plus.
“But in a very short time, he did what no one had done before, that is winning three consecutive Champions Leagues”.
“Now he is starting a new step in his career. He has to build a team, he has to make choices, buy players, sell them. He has to train them, give them his philosophy of play.
“I think he’s probably the best person for this club.”
Mourinho has not been shy about his desire to return to club management, and said this week he has already turned down a number of job offers.
The Portuguese said that he’s growing more eager to return every day.
“Day after day, I miss training. I’m not going to hide it,” Mourinho said.
“There’s something going on in my head, winning a fifth league and a new Champions League with a third club.”
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