Dhoni bats for Kashmir cricket


Srinagar, June 1: Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Indian Premier League campaign may have faltered in Chennai but he is now padding up for the success of the Kashmir Premier League at the opposite end of the country.

Dhoni, an honorary lieutenant colonel in the army, begins a five-day tour of Jammu and Kashmir tomorrow to promote the KPL, an army initiative to use T20 cricket as a platform to bring the Kashmiri youth into the mainstream.

His trip will have a second objective too: boosting the morale of the troops fighting militants.

The Indian captain will visit all the three regions of the state —- Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh —- and meet troops in the forward areas of each region, said the local defence spokesman, Lt Colonel Rajesh Kalia.

Dhoni’s visit comes days after the Kolkata Knight Riders defeated his Chennai Super Kings in the IPL final.

“He will arrive in Jammu tomorrow (and) visit forward areas in Poonch to interact with the troops. The visit will be a big morale booster for our troops,” Kalia said.

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An army officer said Dhoni would interact with the troops at Bhimber Gali, close to the Line of Control in Poonch. He will travel to Kashmir on June 3 to watch the KPL final at the Shawkat Ali Stadium in Baramulla.

Dhoni will spend June 4 and 5 in the Valley, meeting troops. “On June 6, he will play in an exhibition cricket match organised by the army in Leh (Ladakh),” an official said.

The cricketer is scheduled to visit the Siachen base camp on June 7 before flying back to New Delhi the same day.

Dhoni’s trip will coincide with the 40th raising day celebrations by the Jammu-based 16 Corps or White Knight Corps. He will visit the Rajouri garrison to take part in the celebrations tomorrow.

Army sources said a key reason for inviting Dhoni was that it would help promote the KPL and the state’s budding cricketers who participate in it. Dozens of Valley teams took part in the qualifying rounds of this year’s tournament and 14 of them made it to the second round, which is now under way.

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The army had started the KPL last year billing it as a “launching pad” for young cricketers, though most people here believe that its real purpose was to divert the youth from stone-throwing and other “anti-national activities”.

Kashmir was rocked by three massive summer agitations from 2008 through 2010, which left scores dead and thousands injured. (Telegraphindia.com)