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."