Rasikh Salam’s story reiterates the fact that there is hope even in the midst of absolute hopelessness.
Kulgam, the strife-torn town of Jammu & Kashmir, has a reason to smile. After all, one of their boys has caught the attention of the country in the ongoing Indian Premier League. Just 17, Salam made his IPL debut against Delhi Capitals on Sunday and impressed with his pace, swing and control. The right-arm quick, who opened the bowling for Mumbai, was picked for Rs 20 lakh at the auction. A tournament that has unearthed unusual talents, Salam is IPL’s latest find.
Not all unheralded players are lucky enough to have a quick route to the big stage. Salam owes a lot to India pacer Irfan Pathan. A couple of balls during the State U-19 trials was enough for Irfan to get convinced of Salam’s potential and fast-track him to the Senior State side.
“What struck me first was the extra zip he got from the surface,” Irfan pointed out. “It’s encouraging to see how his wrist position is, it is very much like Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar). He can swing the ball in. He is trying to bowl outswing deliveries as well and with time he will do it. He has also got an amazing slower one, that dips on the batsman. And on pitches which are dry, he will be very useful,” Irfan, Jammu & Kashmir captain and mentor, told DH.
Abdul Salam, a government school teacher, didn’t expect his son’s rapid rise. But despite the unstable financial situation, Abdul backed his son to the hilt. The sorry state of cricketing infrastructure in J & K made Salam’s path more challenging.
“His family doesn’t have much knowledge about cricket. The fact that he has made it so far on his own speaks volumes about his grit,” said Mubhashir Rahman, director of J&K’s State Academy. “He has a knack of rising to the occasion. In his debut U-19 match for J&K, he picked up four wickets. I feel he is one for the future and needs to be groomed well,” added Mubhashir, who is also the J&K U-23 coach.
The gruelling demands and the unceasing attention in the IPL will only further test Salam.
“His father is a teacher and has had a positive impact on Salam’s character,” Irfan noted. “He is a keen learner and always asks questions. And what I have observed is he is sometimes ahead of the game compared to other players. Even after the first game, he was pretty vocal and strong-headed despite going for runs in his last over. He understands the nature of the game and he wasn’t upset. So he is a mentally strong cricketer,” he observed.