As the Guns Fell Silent, Sport Fuelled New Hope
Bagtore village of Gureez, is home to a unique cricket field while lies is less than a kilometre away from the Line of Control
The staccato of guns has been replaced by the happy chatter of enthusiastic tourists clicking selfies, enjoying winter sports in the breathtaking mountains after India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire. A popular spot is the massive grassy field that sits between the high mountains and woods of Bagtore. This small village is less than a kilometre away from the Line of Control (LoC), that divides India and Pakistan.
Talib Hassan (23), a local who has been interested in cricket since childhood says that he was always upset that he lived in this war-torn hamlet. This open but deserted field always tempted him to come and play but the circumstances did not allow that. But he always hoped that one day things will get better and "our destiny would change"
Ever since a ceasefire in hostility between the two nations was announced, the playfield is now coming into its own. It has been the must visit spot for cricket players and enthusiastic viewers. The sport noise of cricket matches has replaced the deafening sounds of bullets and shelling that caused death and despair to the locals for decades. The field is surrounded by posts of the Indian Army on two sides, and was said to be a target of Pakistani Rangers before 2021, but now it is the cricket players who are the cynosures of all eyes.
Women carry firewood on her way home to the last village along LOC in Gureez valley
"We lack basic sports facilities. Our village had only one cricket bat, and we managed to get one cricket kit so all of us can now play cricket matches together", said Irshad who organises and plays at the local cricket tournament. He too recalls the days of violence, "artillery shells fired by the Pakistani army used to fall here, and shook the ground."
Then the area becomes a grazing ground for animals, between matches. "We have only one ground in our village, but unfortunately it lacks the basic facilities. There is no fencing and many kids still play on the main roads," said Aadil Salam a local. "When we played cricket here many players got injured due to which no one seems interested to play here again," said Shafat, a local cricket player.
"I also want to represent my country at national and international level but we didn't have proper guidance here. The lack of basic facilities puts us on the backline, my inspirations are Virat Kholi and MS Dhoni and I also want to join a cricket academy one day", said Mudasir Ahmad(21) a local resident of Bagtore.
The last village along LOC in Gureez valley
Local players said that they don't have a single physical training teacher or coach in their schools, "the cricketers here have a lot of potential but don't have a platform like other districts". They say that they are "praying that the India-Pakistan border always remains peaceful as hostility is not feasible for anyone".
Cover Photograph: A group of locals of the Bhuduab village of Tulail close to LOC in Gureez valley
Young men play cricket in ground along the LOC