Watch: Cricket on a Frozen Track in Picturesque Gurez Gets ‘World’ Attention

Nestled in the snow-clad peaks, this ground hosts a tennis-ball tournament every year in which teams from over a dozen nearby villages take part.
Watch: Cricket on a Frozen Track in Picturesque Gurez Gets ‘World’ Attention
Cricket on a frozen track in Gurez. GK Photo

Unlike the rest of Kashmir where winter chill and snowfall put a halt to almost all outdoor games, the Gurez in northern Kashmir has a unique distinction of hosting a cricket tournament soon after the picturesque valley receives mounds of snowfall.

Nestled in the snow-clad peaks, this ground hosts a tennis-ball tournament every year in which teams from over a dozen nearby villages take part.

Locals say that the tournament, organised every winter for over three decades now, caught the attention of the outside world only after the mobile Internet was introduced to the Gurez valley in 2018.

The 55-year-old Abdul Raheem Lone, who has been a part of the game when was just 16, says the game is a favourite among the youth. "Even old people gather to watch the cricket amid snow with great enthusiasm as there is very little left to do amid heavy snowfall," he says.

23-year old Irfan Shangroo, a class 12th student who captains one of the participating teams, is also one of the organizers of the tourney. "I have been participating in the tournament for over eight years now after watching my elders participate in the same," Shangroo says.

Irfan shares the surprising trick of making the pitch playable, which is "by pressing snow with boots after which a mat is laid or sometimes not, and it (pitch) is good to play on," he says, adding dejectedly, "the mat has worn out as it is being used over a decade now."  

Cricket on a frozen track in Gurez. GK Photo

Braving freezing cold and snow, the youth from villages of Achoora, Choorwan, Markoot, Wangpora, Dawar, Khandiyal, Badwan, Mastan, etc. gather at the ground to take part in the tournament.

The residents of Tulail, which mostly remains cut off due to heavy snowfall, are not able to take part in the tournament.

With all done locally, the winners get a cash prize of around Rs 6000 and the runner ups around two thousand. However, much of the focus remains on playing and the enthusiasm and love associated with the game, said the locals. Also, the commentary is done in the local language of Dard-Shina.  

Cricket on a frozen track in Gurez. GK Photo

Now when the game has gained attraction outside and with people getting more associated with the mountainous and snowbound people, the youth have been promoting it for 'winter tourism' in the valley, which otherwise remains cut off from at least six months following heavy snowfall and closure of Gurez-Bandipora highway, the only road linking it to the rest of Kashmir.

A few days ago, the youth playing on snow-covered ground in Gurez made rounds on social media with many awestruck with the sheer beauty of the photograph despite bone-chilling cold.

Cricket on a frozen track in Gurez. GK Photo

"It will be a great support if the administration sponsors us and also promotes these events so that tourism is promoted here," urged Irfan, adding: "we hardly knew it would gain such attraction beyond these snow-capped mountains too". 

By the end of February, the tourney gets over and so does the most chilly part of winter.

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