Freelance photographer Saqib Majeed was on assignment for Barcroft Images of London, looking for autumnrelated imagery, when he came across a group of boys playing cricket under a canopy of chinar trees in Srinagar’s beautiful Nishat Bagh. He quickly took four photographs with his Nikon D90 before the boys asked him to stop shooting.

One of the shots ended up winning the annual Wisden-MCC Cricket Photograph of the Year award. Majeed thus became the second Asian to win the award. (Mumbai-based Atul Kamble had won it in 2013 for his stunning shot of Sachin Tendulkar’s last cricket match as a professional).

Majeed’s photograph, taken from a vantage point 35 feet up, works at various levels. The batsman, bowler and fielders have been frozen at the correct “moment in time”, the hallmark of any classic photograph. It shows young boys playing cricket, which is now increasingly being taken up by youngsters who want to stay away from the unrest on Kashmiri streets. Finally, the photograph is yet another instance of the troubled state at its most beautiful – autumn’s golden tinge, the fading season, the calm mood, all have been perfectly captured.

Majeed runs his own engineering consultancy firm, Baab – The Engineer’s Door, in Srinagar. It undertakes civil engineering projects like architectural designs and engineering surveys. He initially began dabbling in photography with his father’s mobile phone. He started serious photography eight years ago. Since then, he has shot – mostly landscapes and nature – for agencies, web portals and magazines, some of them international. His work has been exhibited in Olive DeLuce, an art gallery in California and since 2013, he has been shooting regularly for Barcroft. “Initially my family didn’t encourage me in my photographic endeavours,” says the 26-year old. “But they came around when my work started appearing in various publications.”

Majeed had sent the four shots to Barcroft, from where it was first picked up by The Guardian, and later, the Times of London. “Cricket in Kashmir… possibly the most wondrously beautiful photograph ever taken of my favourite sport,” tweeted renowned British journalist and television personality Piers Morgan. Fatima Syed, Blog Editor at Ryerson Review tweeted: “Whatever happens in the world, there will always be this glorious picture of cricket in Kashmir.”

Two weeks later, he submitted the image for the Wisden competition. “Saqib’s picture was absolutely breath-taking and a very worthy winner,” Chris Smith, the chairman of the judging panel had declared. The photograph had gone viral very quickly, drawing praise from English newspapers, Kashmiri politicians and Bollywood celebrities. Majeed’s Instagram handle swelled up to 3,140 followers and his Twitter account to 1,378. Within two days, there were 5,000 Twitter notifications on the post about the award-winning shot. Many people wanted to know how they could buy a print.

The young man received 2,000 euros (around Rs 1.40 lakh) for his talent and an entry in the Bible of Cricket, the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack. In addition, the award-winning photograph will be on display for a year at that Mecca of Cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground.

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