Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) has dashed a talented fast bowler's hopes of playing club cricket in England by denying him the necessary No Objection Certificate (NOC) required for visa processing allegedly due to internal politics of association.
Mehjoor Ali Sofi (25), a pacer who has represented Jammu and Kashmir in one Ranji Trophy, 4 List A and five T20 matches, was denied NOC by his own state cricket association to play in the Premier Division One for Easton Tigers Bristol in the United Kingdom, starting May 8.
"I was invited by Chairman of Easton Tigers Cricket Club to play as an overseas amateur player during the 2016 English season commencing on May 8 until September 4," Sofi told PTI in Sri Nagar.
In his letter to Visa Section of the British Embassy in New Delhi, Chairman of the Club, Mahmood Ahmed, said it would be great to have Sofi in the team.
"We have checked his statistics on Cricinfo and have viewed his videos on Youtube ant it would be a great delight to have a first class cricketer from the Ranji Trophy in our team," Ahmed said.
However, as Sofi approached JKCA for a 'No Objection Certificate' for processing his visa, he was told that the association would not issue any NOC to him.
"I went to see general secretary JKCA, Iqbal Shah and requested him for a NOC. First he demanded a proof that I have been offered to play in England, which I duly provided. But then he told me that the association (JKCA) will not give me any NOC," a dejected Sofi said.
He said that the secretary told him to get the 'NOC' from the previous association led by former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah.
JKCA is currently headed by state's Minister for Youth Services and Sports Imran Raza Ansari after his team replaced the Abdullah-led faction amid high drama last year.
Sofi said the JKCA should have been happy that a player from the state has got a chance to play in England, but instead "they bluntly told me to leave the office".
"They should have been happy but they discouraged me and told me bluntly to leave the office. Playing in England county is a dream come true for any budding player like me but the state association, rather than helping me, has marred my chance," Sofi said.
Admitting that the association denied the NOC to the cricketer, the general secretary said it was done as no one
from the club or the embassy had written to the JKCA.
In his defence, Sofi said that since the BCCI had not recognised the Ansari-led faction and the Abdullah-led team had brought a stay from the court on the elections where Ansari was elected president of JKCA, he continued with the trials that were organised by Abdullah's group.
"Most Ranji players did not attend those trials conducted by Ansari faction as the court had stayed the election and the BCCI had not recognised the faction by then.
"But when they got an order from the court to conduct the trials and were told by the BCCI to go ahead, we went to their trials, but they refused to entertain us saying they will not select us in any way," the cricketer said.
Sofi on his part alleged that Shah actually wanted him to play for his club 'Kashmir Gymkhana Club' which he refused and he was now "taking revenge".
Another Ranji player, who did not wish to be named, said there is no reason for the association to deny a NOC to a cricketer who has been offered to play league cricket in England.
"This is politics. Otherwise there is no reason to deny it (the NOC)," the cricketer, who did not wish to be named, said.
"He came to my office and yes I told him that we will not issue a NOC to him. How can I issue a NOC to him as no one has written to me either from the club or the embassy? They should write to me through a proper procedure," Shah said.
He also said that by denying him a NOC, he wanted to make Sofi realise the mistake of "skipping the Ranji Trophy trials".
"He (Sofi) skipped Ranji trials and told us that we were not recognised by either the courts or the BCCI. I wanted to make him realise that he had lost one year by backing that rival faction (led by Abdullah) on their insistence," Shah said.