Idrees Ali

The rise of Manzoor Pandav

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Srinagar, Oct 05: From a modest village of Bandipora to the company of world-class cricketers, the rise of Kashmir’s cricket sensation Manzoor Ahmad Dar, alias Manzoor Pandav, is one of the most inspiring and uplifting story to hear which infuses a sense of hope among the aspiring cricketers in the valley who also want to make it big in Cricket.

Far from glitz and glamour of cricket Manzoor, 23, used to sweat out by playing cricket in the rutted fields of Bandipora villages. “There was a time when I could not even afford to buy a small thing that would cost less than ten rupees and during these difficult days of my life, I had no shoe to wear and used to play barefooted. My childhood has been very harsh to me because of the poor economic condition of my family. I left my studies in my childhood only, It was a compulsion and turned labourer and I still remember it vividly that my first earning was 60 rupees,” says Pandav, who was picked up by Kings-XI Punjab during last IPL season.

Despite facing so many hardships, Pandav never lost hope. “I was so passionate about cricket during my childhood that I would not miss playing the game even in sub-zero temperature. During winters, I was always the first person to clear snow from the playground to make it suitable for playing cricket,” he adds.

“Most of the people in my village are associated with handicraft profession. Friday was the only holiday for us and for me Friday was all about cricket as on this day I used to play cricket from dawn to dusk,” says Pandav.

After playing some outstanding innings in his native village, Manzoor’s talent caught eyes of cricketers of other villages. Manzoor says, “Some cricketers from a nearby village were impressed by my batting and bowling performances who invited me to play for their team and then other teams from the Baramulla district started offering me a place in their respective teams.”

How Manzoor got the nickname Pandav is a very interesting story. 6.2 feet tall with strong physique Manzoor was a famous Kabbadi Player. Once, during a Kababi match, Pandav picked up a number of opponent players on his shoulder and crossed the midline. This show of his strength earned him the name Pandav. Interestingly, Pandavas are remembered as strong and powerful in the Kashmir mythology.

Pandav says, “After playing for many years without a break, I had never thought that I will have to be a professional cricketer and it was only after 2008 that I participated in the selection trials of Jammu and Kashmir Cricket League. The trails were held at National Institute of Technology (NIT) ground, Hazratbal and then in 2009 I first played on the same NIT turf and scored 71 runs of 23 balls.”

After many years of playing non-stop cricket, there came a time when Pandav had to choose between fulfilling the financial needs of his family and playing cricket. “I was supporting 10 members of my family which include my four sisters and ailing parent and against the backdrop of all this, I was supposed to take a bold decision and then I choose the job of an ATM guard which fetched me around three thousand rupees. During this tough time, I started practising cricket more rigorously. There were so many challenges which I had to face while balancing my job and cricket,” he says.

After so many years of hard work and persistence, Manzoor finally got a break in 2016 when he was selected for the J&K cricket team to play in Mushtaq Memorial trophy. His performance in the trophy won him applause. He played four matches and performed very well in all the matches.

The brilliant performance of Pandav in Mushtaq Memorial trophy brought Manzoor into the limelight. He became an overnight cricket sensation in J&K. “The performance in the tournament gave me a lot of confidence and it was at that moment I started to dream big.”

In January this year, people in Kashmir were waiting for the IPL auction as the expectations o Pandav’s selection were very high and then came the big news when  Kings-XI Punjab picked up Pandav for 20 lakh rupees. “I was in Jammu for Vijay Hazara trophy trails and after day-long trail sessions, I was feeling exhausted. When the news about my selection in IPL reached to me, everyone present around me erupted in wild celebrations,” he says. “People called and texted me the whole night and congratulatory messages were pouring in from every corner of Kashmir. “

Although Pandav didn’t find his place in the playing eleven, he is content with the opportunity which fetched him a lifetime experience. “It was a dream come true for me. I practised with world class cricketers like Chris Gayle, Sehwag, Miller and others.”

“Kings-XI Punjab is like my family and I hope they will retain me in next season of IPL and also if other teams will bid for me I will be happy to take the opportunity. As of now, my focus is on domestic season especially Vijay Hazare Trophy and upcoming Ranji trophy. My performance in domestic cricket will be very crucial for my future,” says Pandav.

Pandav says that Mehraj -u-Din Wadooo, Ishfaq Ahmad and Pervaiz Rasool are the role models for sports lovers in J&K.

My message to the youth of Kashmir is that don’t lose hope if I can do it despite all odds, why can’t you?  I acknowledge that infrastructure and conditions in Kashmir are not conducive but we have to face all the odds to achieve our goals.”

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