Despite being in the news for wrong reasons, the Jammu & Kashmir team qualified for the Ranji Trophy quarterfinals on Friday after drawing their match against Tripura in Agartala. This is the biggest achievement of the team - previous best being a pre- quarterfinal clash vs Odisha in 2000-01 - that has always been considered as a North Zone punching bag and never progressed beyond the Plate stage in the last 50 years.
The Jammu & Kashmir made headlines last week when their Jammu hotel was raided by police, reportedly looking for a suspected militant. Several members were questioned only hours before the cricketers were to play against Hyderabad on the final day of their Ranji Trophy Group C match, which ended in a draw later. Now, the darkness seems to have given way to a silver lining.
The J&K team drew with hosts Tripura in their Ranji clash to collect three points - 28 overall - which was just enough to seal a quarterfinal clash against Punjab. Skipper Pervez Rasool, who had been detained for several hours by Karnataka Police in 2009, played a major role in his team's success with an 83 and 7/87.(Also read: Omar Abdullah congratulates team)
On Friday in Agartala, Rasool's team had lost two quick wickets but the 24-year-old, who is the state's first international star, hit an unbeaten 35 to hold on till the end of day's play as J&K bettered Goa's quotient by 0.001!
Till now, Jammu and Kashmir team hardly ever made an impact in Ranji Trophy since making their domestic debut in 1959-60. In fact, the team has won just 16 of their 242 matches since making its start in the domestic tournament. Plagued with problems of security and lack of training facilities over the years, the team has been restricted to the Plate Group in Ranji with many suggesting that Rasool should leave his state team if he wants to grow as a cricketer.
Rasool, however, has maintained his allegiance. "It is the J&K team that has provided me all the opportunities. I have come into the Indian team while representing J&K. I would like to serve my state now. We will try to perform well and break into the Elite group," he had said previously. (Read report here)
Rasool's dreams may be coming true now as his team gets set to face Punjab - a side which finished second in Group A, with four wins - in the quarterfinals at Baroda between January 8 and 12. The Jammu and Kashmir team, which also finished second in Group C, will now look to go the full distance.