Downtown Srinagar — the epicentre of stone-pelting in the Valley troubled by the separatist movement — is set to become a cricketing haven.
For the first time, cricket enthusiasts and corporate houses have come together to launch Downtown Champions League (DCL) — a Twenty20 tournament — to enable young cricketers to show their mettle.
Cricketer Yusuf Pathan inaugurated the tournament on Tuesday. “I congratulate the organisers for holding such tournaments. It gives the youngsters a platform to display their talent,” he said.
The separatist sentiment runs deep in downtown Srinagar, also known as the Old City. It has been the epicentre of the 2010 ‘Azadi’ groundswell.
Dozens of people were killed and injured after security forces came hard at the protesters. Hundreds of youth, including juveniles, have been arrested on charges of rioting and stone-pelting.
However, the Old City will now reverberate with the cheers of cricket fans. Organisers say more than 3,000 young cricketers appeared for the trials in five districts. As many as 1,600 youth turned up in Srinagar alone.
A total of 12 teams, each owned by a franchisee, will participate in the league. The tourney is scheduled to take off early next month and all matches will be played in Srinagar. “The organisers have made it mandatory for all 12 franchises to include at least four cricketers from downtown Srinagar in the playing XI. This is primarily being done to provide a genuine and serious platform for cricketers from the area”, said Gowhar Geelani, media advisor, DCL.
DCL has been modelled on the IPL with the hope that youngsters make it big in the world of cricket. “We want to nurture talent. We want to produce more Parvez Rasools,” Geelani added.