Cricketers invited to play on frozen Kashmir lakes

  • Some social media users skeptical about the existence of ice lakes in AJK

People shared their mixed reaction when the state government invited cricketers of the Lahore Qalandar team to play ice cricket on the frozen lakes in the snow-clad mountainous areas of Azad Jammu Kashmir.

The difference between the ice cricket and other forms of the cricket played in the winter is that the ice cricket is played directly on the ice, no mat is laid down. An international ice cricket tournament has been played on the Lake St Moritz in Switzerland since 1988 and now in Estonia every year since 2004.

The results are a little more unpredictable and provide more fun and variety. The ball is the same as an indoor cricket ball, a composite plastic red ball which makes it relatively easy to find if it gets hit into a snowdrift. The Kashmiri president invited the cricketers to play the ice cricket during the winter season on one of the selected frozen lakes, situated in scenic Neelum Valley area and in some other districts of the state.

Soon after the president’s statement, some social media users questioned the presence of the ice lakes in this part of the divided state. “President Masood Khan has very rightly suggested ice cricket matches in Azad Jammu Kashmir as there are several lakes in different parts of the state that include one in Ratti Gali in Neelum Valley and another at Banjosa near Rawalakot district,” Khizar Hayat Abbasi, the press secretary of the president, confirmed.

“It is an interesting fact about the main lake in Ratti Gali in the Neelum Valley that a part of it remains frozen even in the summer season,” he said. Jalaluddin Mughal, a local journalist from the valley, also confirmed that all the lakes including Ratti Gali were remained frozen during the winter. “Even these (lakes) are not so easy to reach during the (winter) season,” he said.

Some Facebook users shared pictures of the frozen lakes while some questioned that individuals may walk on these frozen waters, but no one can play cricket or any game due to a snowdrift. “How you can invite a national team from Pakistan without fieldwork,” a user said. “Ice turf can be arranged for the ice cricket, as this initiative will support and boost tourism in the state,” another user pointed out.

Former chief justice of AJK Supreme Court Manzoor Hussain Gillani questioned the fielding capacity of the Banjosa lake. In fact, “the Ratti Gali lake is feasible being sufficient in length and breadth,” he said and pointed out that he was not able to accept Ratti Gali and Banjosa as lakes. “Of course, they are bigger water ponds or water reservoirs,” he said.

“Is the thickness of both (the lakes) sufficient enough to bear the load of (the cricket) teams,” he questioned. Sharing pictures of the frozen Banjosa lake, senior Kashmiri journalist Abid Siddique said that the people can walk on the lake. Currently, it is being debated that whether it is possible to play ice cricket in the Kashmiri state or not, but this initiative will boost tourism in the region.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Ice Cricket World Championship is held annually in the Estonian city of Tallinn. With winter temperatures of minus 10 to minus 25, the tournaments are played on Harku boating lake, which freezes over rapidly in early January.