CRICKET: RAMEEN ON A ROLL

October 20, 2019

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The left-hand bat Rameen is a right-arm off-break bowler
The left-hand bat Rameen is a right-arm off-break bowler

The was only one of the reserves in last year’s Pakistan team for the ACC Women’s T-20 Asia Cup team. But Rameen Shamim, the 23-year-old, lanky Karachi girl with glasses proved her mettle at the domestic level enough earlier this year that she was selected for the tour of South Africa in May. There Rameen played four T20Is and impressed so much with her few performances that she was made the captain of one of the three teams in the National Triangular One-Day Women’s Cricket Championship that took place in Lahore in September. 

As captain of the PCB Blasters, she inspired her team to lift the title, beating the PCB Challengers team led by national team captain Bisma Maroof. Rameen has now been named captain of Pakistan’s team of emerging players which will play in the five-day Asian Cricket Council Women’s Emerging Teams Asia Cup 2019 beginning October 22 in Sri Lanka.

Eos sat down with the rising cricketer for a chat about her sporting trajectory. The following are excerpts from the interview ...

Rameen Shamim will lead Pakistan at the upcoming five-day Asian Cricket Council Women’s Emerging Teams Asia Cup 2019 in Sri Lanka. Who is she? And how did she get here?

Q. How happy were you at the announcement of leading the Pakistan side in the upcoming tournament?

A: It’s always an honour to lead any side, and it only increases in magnitude when you are leading a Pakistan side, be it the emerging team, the A-team, or the U-19 or U-23 team. I believe that leading Pakistan will be a very good experience for me. I know that we are going to face a lot of challenges as well for which my team and I are fully prepared. We will have a training camp very soon where my coach and I will plan things accordingly.

Q. You had a good National Triangular One-Day Women’s Cricket Championship and, under your leadership, the PCB Blasters won against the PCB Challengers who were being captained by Bismah Maroof. How do you plan on facing the new challenge?

A: We didn’t take the pressure of whom we were playing against or who was captaining the opposition. We trusted our instincts and played together. Obviously, it’s an honour to win any tournament under one’s own leadership. But I would like to take this opportunity to say that my seniors also supported me very much, including Bismah Baji. When we beat her side in the final, she came to me and congratulated me herself. My confidence got a big boost after winning that tournament.

Q. You had an average outing against South Africa in the T20Is. How difficult was it to get out of that mindset and start afresh?

A: I got a good start in South Africa where I played four T20Is earlier this year. I bowled really well in the first two games in which I also took my debut wicket. But in the third game I was asked to lead the bowling attack, something I had never done before, because of which I couldn’t do as well as I would have wanted to. The credit goes to my team, which supported me even when I had an off day on the field.

When I came back from South Africa, the then Pakistan coach Mark Cole told me about the areas I needed to work on. It wasn’t as if I had come back dejected. I had learned a lot of things which I applied afterwards in our training camp in Abbottabad and then in our domestic competition.

Q. As an off-break bowler, do you prefer to bowl in the middle of the innings or lead the bowling attack?

A: A bowler should be prepared to bowl at any stage of the game. The former Pakistan captain Sana Mir is one such bowler who has the ability to lead the bowling attack and bowl in the middle and death overs. I follow her. I haven’t had a good experience of bowling with the new ball but I am learning how to bowl with it. I try to bowl with the new ball in our practice games. In fact, I led the bowling attack in a couple of games in the recently concluded domestic tournament.

Q. Although you are a right-armed bowler you are a left-hand bat. Are you working on your batting and fielding skills?

A: I am working on my batting. My utmost priority is to hone my all-round skills. I also realise that fielding has the most important role in cricket. I believe that your bowling and batting aren’t always under your control but your fielding always is. I play half the games on the basis of my fielding alone. Even the tournament that we won recently was due to our fielding because we outdid others in the fielding department. Nain Abidi is a terrific fielder and she is someone I look up to. I have learned a lot about fielding by practising with her.

Q. Are you going to go with a different strategy in the game against India?

A: We will go with the same approach against India with which we will go against the other teams. It doesn’t matter whether we play against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or India, we will go with a winning approach. I don’t want a brouhaha over the prospect of facing India because I don’t want added pressure on my players or the team.

Q. Is there anyone other than Bisma and Sana whom you look up to?

A: I also like Marina Iqbal who’s now a part of the women’s selection committee. I have played a lot under her. I really like her approach towards the game and her batting has always inspired me.

Q. Any international player who has inspired you?

A: I never got a chance to follow any female international player, but if you talk about men’s international cricket there is one name that comes to mind: Mahendra Singh Dhoni. I have read his biography and find his story quite motivational. I’d like to mention Mohammad Amir’s name as well, who had to cope with a lot of abuse after his comeback. I am a player myself and I know how difficult it is to get out of a negative mindset to start afresh. Not only did he do that, but he also made a good name for himself while doing so, which is very inspirational to say the least.

Q. Did you face any challenges when you decided to play professional cricket?

A: My family, especially my father and sisters, have supported me a lot. They would take me to grounds. But even then I had to face challenges when I took up this sport. My relatives would taunt my father as to how I would lag behind in studies if I pursued my career in cricket. But my father would always say that he was confident that I’d be able to do both efficiently.

I used to face commuting problems as well, because my father and brothers were working when I started playing cricket. My father then taught me how to ride a motorcycle. Now I go to the grounds on my own bike.

Q. How did you start your cricket journey in Karachi?

A: I am originally from Sukkur where there are no grounds as such. But my interest in cricket began when I was there. We moved to Karachi when I was in ninth grade. I’d search for grounds here. I wanted to see where I could go to practice and play cricket. I told my sister who then looked it up on the internet and found out about trials for the Karachi U-19 that were being held at the TMC Ground. I appeared for trials over there, got selected and went on to become the highest wicket-taker from Karachi.

Q. What do you do when you are not playing?

A: I usually work on my fitness when I am not playing any tournament. I go to the grounds and hit the gym and work on my cardio and agility.

Q. How important is academic education for a player?

A: Our coaches and senior players always put emphasis on completing our education first. I have done my Master’s in International Relations from the University of Karachi. I believe education is very important for everyone. It teaches you how to conduct yourself in a civil manner and gives you confidence. If you look at our current Pakistan women’s cricket team, all the players there are well educated. Some are enrolled in graduation programmes while others have completed their Master’s.

The writer is a member of staff

Published in Dawn, EOS, October 20th, 2019