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Kashmir cricketer joins Indian rebel league

A Kashmir cricketer Abid Nabi Friday joined the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL).

Nabi was one of the 18 cricketers to join the league including former international stars Chris Cairns, Chris Harris, Nathan Astle, Hamish Marshal of New Zealand, Darren Maddy of England, Azhar Mahmood of Pakistan and former Indian left arm spinner Nilesh Kulkari.

The ICL, a brainchild of the Subhash Chandra owned Essel Group, has earlier signed over 60 cricketers with batting great Brian Lara and former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq.

Nabi, 21, a tear-away pacer from a humble background in Sonawar area of summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir has been knocking at the door of the Indian cricket team for quite a time now.

He wanted to become the first cricketer from the conflict-ridden Kashmir to play for the Indian national cricket team but being consistently overlooked by the Indian selectors, he finally decided to join the rebel ICL.

“Yes, I know with my joining ICL, my chances of playing for the Indian team are gone,” Nabi told Kashmir Newz.

“But I want a bigger canvass to display my talent. It would be nice playing alongside Brian Lara and Inzamam-ul-Haq.”

Well built, 6.2 ft, Nabi, is the poster boy of cricket in today’s Kashmir.

Nabi played in the English league last season and impressed the English coaches there with his brisk pace, line and length, which troubled the English professional cricketers throughout the season.

He had already caught the attention of many coaches throughout India, who hoped to have found an answer to fiery pace bowlers like the Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan and Brett Lee of the world champions Australia.

Nabi bowls at a speed of around 140 km per hour and has consistently rattled the opposition batsmen into submission with his bouncers and in-swinging yorkers.

“I have always wanted to be a fast bowler and love to see fear in the eyes of batsmen I bowl at,” said Nabi, who is reported to have touched a speed of 147 km per hour.

“My aim is to bowl at 150 but also use skills like reverse-swing to get wickets.”

Having brought up in the Sonwar area of Srinagar, a hotbed of cricketers in Kashmir valley, Abid loves taking a stroll through the narrow lanes of his locality that prepared him to play his choicest sport – cricket.

He lives in his family’s three-storey house, which they share with three of Abid’s maternal uncles and their families.

Abid’s career took a turn when two years back, his pace attracted famed former Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee at an MRF Pace foundation bowling camp. In line to it, Lillee alerted Greg Chappell, and Abid was chosen to bowl in the India nets.

Abid’s father, Ghulam Nabi Ahanger is a mason and his mother Hajra, a housewife. Ahanger used to convince his son to give up the passion for the game and concentrate on studies.

“My father then thought that playing cricket is going to ruin my career. Since there were no success stories, such thinking was obvious,” Nabi says.

During the 2007 Cricket World Cup, Nabi was among the list of 30 players selected and in 2005 he was one in the 17 member squad against England.

Once outside Kashmir, Nabi forgets the situation back home and remains engrossed in trials.

“When I started cricket, there was restriction on the movement after 7 pm and playing cricket was impossible. But outside you have good facilities and you get a chance to prove yourself,” he says.

During an international match played in Srinagar in 1983, the crowd that gathered to watch the match cheered for the visiting side, West Indies against the wishes of India.

At home Nabi’s brother Atif too is working hard to excel in cricket. Right now he is playing in the under-19.

Nabi, who has had stints at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore and the Madras Rubber Factory (MRF) Pace Foundation in Chennai, has a steely resolve.

“I always urged him to study hard and try to get a government job,” said his father Ghulam Nabi Ahangar, a mason by profession.

“He never listened to me and just wanted to play cricket. Being a poor man, I never wanted him to dream big and get disappointed. But I think he has started getting rewards now,” he said.

Nabi’s coach Mansoor Ahmed considers his ward as fast as anybody else.

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