ALAPPUZHA: Kashmiri rowers are likely to steal the show in the 65th edition of the Nehru Trophy Boat Race to be held in the Punnamada lake on the second Saturday of this month. Thirty of them flew down from the Valley on Tuesday and joined the Town Boat Club of Kumarakom which owns Karichal Chundan. Another 28 men from that state will make their debut by rowing Devas Chundan for the New Aleppey Boat Club. They are dragon boat rowers who have participated in national championships. “They will be the core strength of the club,” sources said.
The Kashmiri men are preferred for their prowess in rowing as they are nurtured in the Dal Lake and other places in the state. They have excelled in dragon boat races over the years and are the favourites to win the cup this time. They have a history of defeating the ‘Indian Navy’ in the National Dragon Boat Race Championship, organised by the Jammu and Kashmir State Sports Council under the auspices of Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association a couple of years ago. During the last several years, the rich boat clubs have managed to get the maximum number of athletes from other states. However, there is a 25 percent cap on migrant rowers following complaints that local oarsmen were ignored.
The 30 oarsmen from Kashmir, who were flagged off by Jammu and Kashmir Minister for Horticulture Syed Basharat Bukhari at Srinagar on Monday, will practise with the local men for two weeks from Wednesday. They are members of the Jammu and Kashmir rowing team. Mr Bukhari hoped that Jammu and Kashmir sports would get a major boost and that the team would bring laurels to the state which has a large pool of rowing talent. According to Mr Anil Kalappurakkal, the leading captain of Town Boat Club, the Kashmiris will be trained in a camp set up near Kumarakom.