Srinagar: Tennis balls are not associated with gully cricket anymore.
Tennis ball cricket is not only a recognized sport now but its growing popularity in Kashmir valley can be gauged by the response received by the organizers of the District Anantnag Tennis Ball Cricket Championship that started on Monday.
The organizers were in for a surprise when around 100 local teams turned up to participate in the three-day-long event that started at Bijbehara in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district yesterday.
Due to limited infrastructure, the organizers could register 64 teams only for the tournament. After the Anantnag championship, similar tournaments are in the pipeline in all the districts of Kashmir.
“At least 100 teams from Anantnag district were ready to play but we stopped entry once we registered 64 teams. We do not have the infrastructure to accommodate 100 teams in a tournament. In this form of cricket, each team has 14 players. Nine players play at a time and five are substitutes. Similar tournaments are in the pipeline in all the districts of Kashmir,” Farooq Salroo, founder of the J&K Tennis Ball Cricket Association (JKTBCA), told The Kashmir Monitor.
He said the tennis ball cricket was now a recognized game and they were expecting similar participation in other district-level tournaments.
“This game is recognized by the Union Ministry of Sports and others like School Games Federation of India. Our J&K team has won several national-level championships in the past and we are expecting good participation in other district-level tournaments too. Though I introduced tennis ball cricket here in 2000, it has gained immense popularity of late especially after our matches started getting coverage on Facebook. People keenly follow the game both on the ground and on social media,” said Salroo.
However, he regretted that they did not have the required infrastructure for the game.
“In Srinagar, 200 to 300 teams are ready to play but there are no grounds available. The grounds that we have are for regular cricket or other games like football. We have to squeeze in our matches on the ground, though the boundary of tennis ball cricket is only 25 to 30 meters. We are not being given the required infrastructure,” he said.
One JKTBCA member said the government should pay more attention to tennis ball cricket.
“Even cricketers like MS Dhoni, Piyush Chawla, and others had first started playing tennis ball cricket. Tennis ball cricket is being played for many years in countries like India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Kenya, Thailand, HongKong, Malaysia, etc. In Kashmir, a good number of women too have played or are playing tennis ball cricket. The game is not only recognized but our players also get certain job reservations in Group C non-gazetted posts. Unfortunately, we do not get much support locally from the government. We only need more grounds and tennis ball cricket can become more popular. Many prefer it over regular cricket as playing with a tennis ball is injury-free,” he said.