In half a meter of snow and icy cold, the Gurez frontier valley is making a lot of noise about cricket, replacing the rattle of the gunfire that for decades caused the death and despair of its inhabitants. The laughter of cricket fans has come in abundant snow and has apparently crossed the fence where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have lined up in apple-to-eye confrontation, although the mood is gloomy today.
But now the breathtaking snowy valley, surrounded by high mountains, hosts three major cricket tournaments, including the largest in Markoot. The village is a kilometer away – as the crow flies – from the border and within firing range of Pakistani gunners. However, cricket is a happy and common factor among the arch-rivals, Gurez has also geared up for peace. Residents cut, molded and reshaped a snow grass from a huge mass of snow and invited ten local teams to compete for a trophy.
“Thank God. Gurez echoes with sounds of peace and happiness. Boys are having fun,” tournament organizer Ghulam Mustafa told Gurez’s News 18 by phone. “You can hear the sound of the guys cheering for their team. This place has come alive even in this icy cold,” said the former soldier. Breathe heavily and pause for words.
Mustafa and his team are the ones who prepare the snow grass, set up the match schedules and organize the small funds for the tournament. They even upload things for promotion on social media. “Gurez’s cricket videos are everywhere. An Australian player recently tweeted this too. Our cricket tournament is being noticed,” he said delightedly.
Before the start of each match, Mustafa and fellow organizers fill the trampled spots on the pitch with snow, spray the surface and wait for it to freeze. Finally, a mat is placed over the turf. The freezing evens out the surface. “The tournament standards are very good. The pitch is the same. We use tennis balls. We have demarcated the borders according to the rules and regulations,” he informed.
“I’ve been doing it for many years, but this time the tournament has become all the rage,” he added. Before the LoC – Love of Cricket – many young people refused to move from the inaccessible snow-covered area to the district center of Bandipore and Srinagar. Every winter, Gurez remains cut off from the rest of the valley due to a huge snow accumulation on several parts of the 165 km long highway. Snow is the maximum on the stretch at Razdan Pass.
Mustafa said that while many families migrate from Gurez for mobility, others are trapped in the remote Tilial Valley for months. Despite this, 300 young people come to watch the matches. Some, he said, wade through knee- and hip-deep snow to cheer on their favorite teams. Besides Markoot, teams from Achura, Churwan, Kanzalwan, Dawar and Baktore also play. Baktore, bang on the LoC, and either side of the Kishenganga River diving either side of the fence, also holds a separate tournament.
“It’s heartwarming to see guys playing cricket in such freezing temperatures,” said Aijaz Gurezi, a resident. Mustafa is pleased with Gurez’s transition from a war zone to a safe destination with huge tourism potential. where (cross-border) shelling has caused damage. There were also incidents in 2019 with few infiltration attempts. But there has been no incident in our area in the past year,” he said.
Tension between opposing armies has abated significantly in Gurez, LoC areas and the international border after the two DGMOs requested a ceasefire last year. Otherwise, a region that has witnessed devastating artillery shelling for two and a half decades, the sound of bat hitting the ball is a pleasing departure from the lives people have lived here amid infiltration attempts and violations of the ceasefire. -fire.
But Mustafa hopes Gurez will get attention for sightseeing, adventure sports like hiking and rafting. Murtaza Lone, who displays Gurez, regularly wants the hills to be exploited for skiing.
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