This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) cricket has been steadily clambering up the performance graph over the past few years. The state side had qualified for the knockout phase of the Ranji Trophy last season after a hiatus of twelve years (they last featured in the 2001-02 season). If that ‘quarterfinal entry’ was a ‘serious beginning’, the J&K Ranji side ensured all eyes in the first round games of the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy season were riveted on them as they pushed the envelope to shock 40 times Ranji champions Mumbai by four wickets in their own den to deliver a big statement. J&K Ranji team captain Parvez Rasool, who led his side to the quarterfinals last season, where they lost to Punjab at Vadodara, played his part in the demolition of Mumbai. Rasool, who made his ODI debut earlier this year on the tour of Bangladesh and is among the 30 World Cup probables, spoke on his team’s monumental win in an exclusive interview.
Q How special does it feel to beat a side like Mumbai in their own backyard?
The entire team is excited about beating Mumbai, and what makes our win even sweeter is the fact that we beat them in their own backyard. We guys in Jammu & Kashmir have grown up hearing about Mumbai’s impressive Ranji Trophy record and the stalwarts they have churned out over the years. To be honest, the feeling of beating them hasn’t sunk in yet. This win will surely be a big boost for Jammu & Kashmir cricket.
Q What do you think was the secret of this monumental Ranji Trophy match triumph?
I think self-belief was the single big factor that helped us to pull off this great win. The boys knew they have the wherewithal to do it and showed at the Wankhede that they can rise to the occasion. Q:
Q Do you think the Jammu & Kashmir team will be now taken seriously by other Ranji sides?
I believe other Ranji teams will take note of this win and will be on their guard when they play us in the next round of games. Jammu & Kashmir won’t be a pushover anymore, and no team will take us lightly. Q: You are the first cricketer from J& K to play for India.
Q What kind of pep talk you have been giving to your teammates before the Ranji season started?
I feel proud that I’m the first cricketer from the state to play for the country, and I’m sharing all my experiences with my Jammu & Kashmir Ranji teammates. I have been telling the boys to back their abilities and (if they do so) performance will happen. The team is a talented bunch, and we are hoping to fare well in all our upcoming Ranji games.
Q The floods in J&K disturbed your team’s Ranji preparations. Your thoughts.
It was a difficult period for all of us. Our Ranji preparations were hampered owing to the floods that ravaged the state. Our entire Ranji side first did our training in Chandigarh for about ten days and then in Nagpur for about twenty days. The odds were stacked against us, but we managed to tide over the odds.
Q You have made it to the 30-man World Cup probables. Do you think you stand a decent chance of making the final cut?
The only thing that is in my hand is performance. I’m looking to perform consistently in all domestic games till the final World Cup squad is picked. I want to stay positive and hope for the best.
Q Do you believe that being an all-rounder will help your selection case better than others?
I consider myself as a bowling all-rounder, a spinner who could bat decently. It all depends on what the selectors think is the best combination for the World Cup. On my part, I will let my performance talk and like to keep my fingers crossed.
Q You were first picked in the national team for the 2013 tour of Zimbabwe, but you did not play in any of the matches. Your thoughts.
It was a big moment as I toured Zimbabwe under Virat Kohli, who is a great motivator. I got an opportunity to share the Indian dressing room, and the excitement to be among the big names of Indian cricket is hard to describe it in words. I learned a lot from that tour although I did not play in any of the matches.
Q You made your ODI debut against Bangladesh earlier this year at Mirpur. Must have fond memories of that game.
The Mirpur ODI has to be the biggest moment of my cricket career so far. It was a flat deck with little purchase for the spinners. I got the wickets of Bangladesh opener Anamul Haque and skipper Mushfiqur Rahim, finishing with 2 for 60 from my quota of 10 overs.