Anantnag, Feb 05: Famous for its vast expanse of apple orchards, Marhama is the second largest village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, but despite being home to 2300 families, the place lacked a proper cricket ground until last year.
In 2019, Chirag Aamir, a former state-level cricketer inspired by the sophisticated sports infrastructure outside J&K, discussed with his other two friends the idea of having something similar in their own village.
As COVID-19 induced lockdown forced them inside their homes the following year, the trio contemplated the idea and the work began.
Asking the help from the administration, the friends got permission to develop a state-owned field in Dallovhaad area. However, developing a rough ground wasn’t easy and the process required financial resources and determination.
Mr Chirag and his two friends, Khurshid Ahmad and Aamir Magray - all farmers by profession - pooled their money and proved their strong will when the procurement of a pitch-roller was rejected by the administration making them order one on their own.
The pitch-roller, ordered from Punjab, cost them Rs seven-lakhs, said Mr Chirag.
When the ground was finally prepared for cricket in December 2022 it hosted its maiden event, Marhama Premier League (MPL) where teams from several districts of the valley took part while the inauguration of the tournament was done by renowned Kashmiri cricketer Parvez Rasool.
Mr Rasool, who hails from the same tehsil, was also the chief guest on the tournament.
“Playing in the famed MCG in Australia may remain a dream for these young cricketers of south Kashmir but our initiative has enabled them to play at the MCG [Marhama Cricket Ground] of their own,” Mr Chirag quipped.
Mr Chirag, who also owns a sports equipment shop, feels the initiative was done at the right time. “The menace of drugs and overuse of smartphones was toppling the youth of this area, but with a high-quality ground to play, most of them have shunned their bad habits now,” he claimed.
The MCG has instilled hope in the village boys, who now see a chance of polishing their skills and making it to the national-level cricket.
Though fenced on the sides, MCG still lacks a proper water connection, changing rooms for the players and other facilities.
Having spent over ₹8 lakh from their own pockets, which they aspire to earn back over time by organising tournaments, the trio is hopeful that the government will assist them in upgrading the ground further.