PITHORAGARH: In the mountain-locked Paleta village, a six brings the game to a halt. The ball is lost. Everyone starts looking—batsmen, bowlers, fielders, even the motley crowd of spectators — while a man dashes downhill to get another. Soon, the game resumes. It’s the Khassi Cup, where at stake is a goat and glory. “The winner gets a khassi, a fattened goat,” said Chandra Sekhar Kapri, an organiser of the fortnightlong tournament.
In Pithoragarh and nearby villages, which lay claim to a deeply-rooted cricketing tradition — Rishabh Pant’s family hailed from Pithoragarh and MS Dhoni’s from Almora — winter cricket games go back some 20 years.
It is their own ‘World Cup’. But when youth from villages started moving out, players were difficult to find and so were spectators.
So, five years ago, the Khatigaon Premier League, as it used to be, became Khassi Cup. “The goat is great motivation,” said Anurag Punetha, an organiser.
And it worked.
Soon, people from villages started registering and turning up to watch. To enter the tournament, a team has to pay Rs 2,200.
The money is used to buy the goat, which costs about Rs 8,000, and organise the matches. Sometimes, local politicians and government officials sponsor teams, and are invited to the 15-over-a-side games — the final is a 20-over match.
Five sixes in an over will win a player Rs 1,000, while five fours will win them Rs 500. A hat-trick is rewarded with Rs 200. “This time, the Khassi Cup began on November 21,” said Kapri.
The Hureti team won, beating Dharchula’s 163 for 5 and claiming khassi. Munsyari hosted the second tournament from January 6-14. It was Bokya Cup, named after a bearded variety of goat the 14 participating teams played for. Team Bhumkapani A, led by one Devendra Bhandari, won.