At the age of 17, Rashik Salam Dar has not only made his family proud but also the people of his community in Mirpora Ashmuji, a village of South Kashmir’s Kulgam district. The young right arm bowler has been secured a place in the Mumbai Indians team of the Indian Premium League (IPL), and ever since his home has been thronged by visitors, congratulating him and his family.
His father, Abdul Salam Dar, a 48-year-old teacher, says he has been receiving almost 200 visitors every day since the news about Rashik’s selection spread in the Valley.
But, the young cricketer’s ride to the IPL team has not been an easy one.
Rashik grew up in the narrow lanes of Mirpora, where people used to play cricket with the branches of trees. Fortunately for him, his cousin Nadeem Javeed Dar, who used to play cricket for many clubs, noticed his interest in cricket when he held the bat for the first time.
“He held the bat in his hand upside down and I showed him how to hold it correctly. However, his bowling was good, so I asked him not to bat and focus on bowling,” said Nadeem while speaking with NewsClick.
Nadeem ensured Rashik kept his focus on bowling and took him along to every match he played. With the passage of time, he became famous in the locality for fast bowling, and people started calling him “Shoaib Akhtar”, after the Pakistani fast bowler.
In his school, a branch of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan headed by Salam, Rashik would play with his father during lunch break. He would often even skip his classes to play matches for the team under Nadeem’s captainship.
“I was worried about his education. No doubt I was happy about his talent, but my concern for his studies was growing because he was continuously skipping classes,” said Salam.
Nadeem would call Rashik’s teacher to permit him to participate in the matches, “I was sure about his talent, and made every effort to utilise that talent and make it sharper,” Nadeem said. Shaping him as a bowler, Nadeem taught him in-swing, slower, Yorker.
Many a time, Salam scolded Nadeem for taking Rashik to play with people who were elder to him as he could get injured. But Rashik, managing to dodge his father, continued playing matches with Nadeem. This game of hide and seek between father and son ended when a day before his 10thgrade final exams, Rashik went with Nadeem to play a match. “When he came back, I scolded him and asked what will you write in the exams. He left me speechless when he said that he had memorised three questions while playing on the ground,” said Salam with a smile on his face.
Rashik proved that cricket woud never be a hurdle in his education when he qualified the10th grade exams with 365 marks out of 500. “He ran towards me and said I’m happy today, let us go and play cricket,” said Nadeem.
Whenever he got money from his father, he would save it to buy accessories for himself. Everyone in the village started talking about his talent and his hard work. He was known for hattricks. His bouncers have even injured many batsmen.
Rejected by Selectors
Soon, Rashik started getting calls from many local cricket clubs. “Whenever he got a call, he asked me whether he should join or not,” said Nadeem.
Delivering balls with the speed of 130kmp was a great deal coming from a 17-year-old boy. Thus, dreaming to play in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), in 2017, Rashik travelled to Srinagar for trials.
But the 5.8 feet tall fast bowler was disappointed when he was rejected by the selectors even after performing well in the trials. Returning home hopeless and sad, Rashik told Nadeem that he would not play cricket anymore.
“He was upset. It was the biggest challenge for me to keep his hope alive and keep him focused on cricket,” said Nadeem, who asked him to play cricket for two more years, and if after that he didn’t get selected, he could focus more on his studies. Rashik, as usual, listened to his cousin and decided to continue playing.
“I knew he hoped for the best for me, whatever he suggested made me better. I listened to him and kept playing cricket,” Rashik told NewsClick.
The First Opportunity
By now, Rashik’s cupboard was filled with trophies, and he practised all the more to enhance his skills. In 2018, Indian fast bowler Irfan Pathan, who was appointed mentor-cum-coach of the Jammu and Kashmir cricket team, conducted selection camps young cricketers.
Rashik was among them. Although, he was nervous while performing in front of Pathan, he did not let that affect his performance. Pathan selected him after he had delivered just three balls, called him and asked, “Bache Tera Naam Kya Hai? (kid, what is your name?)”. He soon became one of Pathan’s best players. He played multiple tournaments and was promoted to play in Vijay Hazare Trophy in October this year. Soon he was noticed by one of the coaches of Mumbai Indians when he took three wickets in two List A matches during the tournament.
Like earlier, he received a call, but this time it was beyond his expectations, it was a call for giving trials for the Mumbai Indians team. “At first, I couldn’t believe my ears. Before saying yes, I decided to call Nadeem Bhai,” said Rashik.
“I was shocked and happy as well when I heard this, I asked him to say yes without any hesitation,” Nadeem said. Finally, he signed the contract with Mumbai Indians for Rs. 20 lakh.
Rashik gives credits for his selection in Mumbai Indians to Irfan Pathan and Parveez Rasool. Parveez Rasool Zargar (born on February 13,1989) is an Indian cricketer who plays as an all-rounder for Jammu and Kashmir. A right-hand batsman and off-break bowler, Zargar is the captain of the Jammu and Kashmir team and a regular member of India A. He was bought for Rs. 95 lakh ($130,000) by Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2014 IPL auction. Rasool was the first cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to have played in the IPL.
Rasool received his maiden call for the national team in 2013 for the Zimbabwe tour. He finally represented the national team against Bangladesh on June 15, 2014, at Mirpur. In his first chance to play his maiden T20 against England in 2017, he dismissed Eoin Morgan and got his first T20 international wicket.
Speaking with NewsClick, Irfan Pathan said, “After conducting district-level tournaments, I have seen more than 500 boys. I went to districts like Pulwama, Kupwara, and Baramulla to spot talent. But when I saw this boy in Srinagar in the district selection, I stopped him only after his first two deliveries. I was pretty sure that this boy can do better. His runup and action are the best and also different. The way he delivers the ball and his in-swing really impressed me,” he said.
‘Need for Better Opportunities’
In conversation with NewsClick, Parveez said that Rashik was one of the best young players and his talent was really appreciable. “Rashik is a very hardworking boy and it is his talent which took him to play with one of the world’s best players. Our love and prayers are with him and we hope he will be more successful” he said. He added, “This was for the first time when JKCA (Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association) conducted district-level trials and this was the best opportunity for Kashmiri cricketers to perform in front of Irfan Pathan. Finding talents such as Rashik is an answer to those people who were running JKCA for many years and were not able to find a single player. Kids like Rashik are everywhere in Kashmir but we need to work hard to find them.”
Commenting on talent in J&K, Nadeem said that the government must give opportunities to people who live in far-flung areas. “Boys like Rashik perform well without the guidance of professional coaches and without any proper diet chart. They can do so much better when they are spotted and provided better facilities,” Nadeem added.