Calling them the ‘women’ cricket team won’t be entirely right as they are just girls, not women. If you calculate the average age of Pakistan’s women cricket team and compare it with the average age of the other seven teams competing in the upcoming ICC Women Cricket World Cup, our team, with most of its players still in their teens or early twenties, will be the youngest in the lot.
But that does not in any way mean that they lack in any department of the sport that brought them together on one platform with the same dreams, hopes and aims. “I have told them that with the kind of work they have been doing, if they apply themselves in all the four departments, that is, batting, bowling, fielding and wicket keeping, they can turn a match around in their favour no matter how big a team they may be playing against,” said chief coach Mohtashim Rasheed.
“I also tell the girls that they have to take it match by match and try to give their best each time. After all it is the team that performs better on any given day that emerges victorious in the end,” he added.
About their particular group in the World Cup, Group B, the chief coach informed that it has four teams, namely, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Due to security reasons and in the face of threats by the Shiv Sena, the entire group’s matches have been shifted from Mumbai to a new venue, Cuttack, in Orissa. The coach or the team hadn’t heard much about Cuttack but their spirits remain high. “All we want to do is play as we qualified for this World Cup,” said Mohtashim.
“South Africa also qualified with us. We have beaten them before. As for Australia and New Zealand, we haven’t beaten them as yet but that doesn’t mean that we cannot,” he pointed out.
Memories of last Cup
His captain Sana Mir is also upbeat about the whole tournament. This is the second World Cup for her and some of the other girls in the side, namely, wicketkeeper Batool Fatima, Qanita Jalil, Asmavia Iqbal, Javeria Wadood Khan, Bismah Maroof and Nain Abidi, making them the seniors. Sharing her memories of four years ago, Sana remembers how Pakistan was not expected to reach the Super Sixes and how their tickets and booking for the return trip was all done in advance.
“And then our match against Sri Lanka changed everything. All our batters contributed and we beat them through sheer team effort. Then it was the Sri Lankan team that moved out of the hotel as we moved into their rooms for the Super Sixes,” Sana laughed.
“But despite the upset, we were still the underdogs in the Super Sixes. India dismissed us for 53, England for 75 and New Zealand scored 378 against us. Their Suzie Bates, with her 168, created the record for the highest runs in any Women’s World Cup. Still, we beat West Indies and improved our world ranking, too. This time we are in the top six teams and Sri Lanka and South Africa are the seventh and eighth teams,” she informed.
Hard work and determination
Training with the 15 players named for the Pakistan side by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Women’s wing were five reserves — Kainat Imtiaz, Sania Iqbal Khan, Zeba Manzoor Hussain, Mariam Hassan Shah and Marina Iqbal. “They won’t be going to India with us, but train as hard with the entire team as they are reserves and know that they can be called for national duty anytime during the competition. If not this time then later, these girls know that their hard work will eventually pay off as only the best get a place in the playing XI like our new girls, Elizabeth Barkat and Diana Baig,” said Mohtashim.
“Thanks to the new domestic set-up allowing all cities to play, spinner Elizabeth Barkat was discovered just before the Women’s World T20 last year and we can’t do without her now. And pacer Diana from Gilgit is our recent discovery. If she performs well during the Cup, she makes a place for herself in the team,” he said.
The final camp before the World Cup was also held in Muridke, which is situated just outside of Lahore, and the squad ran into difficulties when it started raining cats and dogs for some three days continuously there, which resulted in their missing net practice and their friendly matches with boys’ cricket academy teams. It was raining as hard in Lahore as well so going there for practice was also of no use. That was when the chief coach Mohtashim, deputy coach Tahir Mahmood and trainer Yasir Malik decided to hold indoor training sessions.
Taking the girls to the Green Room at the Lahore Country Club, Muridke, the coaches and trainer stepped outside while the girls held an aerobics session. “Half an hour?” asked Mohtashim. “No, Sir, 45 minutes,” corrected Sana.
“We trust them to do aerobics on their own,” explained Mohtashim later as they might have some reservations about our being there. “I trust my senior girls completely. They will hold a tough workout session as all in my team have become very serious about their fitness lately after they started winning international matches,” he said.
Sana from the start gave away strict orders to stop laughing. Qanita, too, kept an eye on all as they worked on their cardiac fitness. After 15 minutes the ones in the front moved to the back of the room and the ones at the back came ahead. No one was allowed to hide at the back. And when the pace of the music picked up all together, captain included, finished their session with bhangra. And unaware about the girls transforming from grasshoppers to leaping frogs inside, the coaches and trainer tapped their feet outside.
The aerobics was followed with a strength and endurance training session by trainer Yasir Malik with Mohtashim bucking up the girls by admiring their will to not let nature come in the way of their hard work. “Likewise you also have to handle different conditions during your matches. You need to be able to field for 50 overs and not get tired to bat or bowl as well,” he told them. “This strength and endurance training will come in very handy for that,” he said.
Meanwhile, having worked so strenuously during their aerobics session, the girls’ hands kept slipping while doing pushups on the floor that had become moist from their perspiration. Towels were brought in to wipe the floor before they could continue.
The girls were allowed a day off during camp when the Women’s wing had arranged makeovers for them at the Depilex Institute in Lahore. The big PCB coach was boarded once again to head to the beauty salon. But if you think that it must have been a time for relaxation for the players, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Any normal young girl would have a field day getting a facial, manicure/pedicure and hair cut but not our girls. “Why do we need to go there?” Sana was continuously asked by one player or the other a day before the parlour visit. “They worry if it will hurt,” Sana laughed. “I got a call from the salon earlier and they wanted to know if we were all excited, I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the girls would rather run extra rounds in the ground than go for a makeover,” she shared.
And just as the coach entered Lahore city, Elizabeth headed towards the door. “May I go home instead? It is near from here. I’ll come back when you all are done, I promise,” she pleaded with her captain, who reasoned with her that she didn’t have the authority to let anyone off the bus without Women’s wing manager Ayesha Ashhar’s permission, who was in Islamabad attending a family engagement at that point. So Elizabeth and the others got hair treatments, skin health consultations where they were educated about sun blocks, etc., by the experts.
“Giving them free makeovers was my daughter Redah’s idea,” said beautician Mussarat Misbah. “It is just our way of showing support for the team,” she added.
“I feel bad saying this, but I didn’t even know that we had a women’s cricket team,” said Redah Misbah-Qureshi. “It was only recently when I read that the men’s team had lost in last year’s World T20 and the girls team had beaten India that I learnt about them. Then I Googled them to know more about them. I found out that they have been around for over 10 years now. Looking at their pictures, I thought that they were nice looking girls who could use some help in the grooming department so we got in touch with the PCB Women’s wing and invited the team over,” she said.
“These girls represent Pakistan. We are proud of them. And when the foreign female tennis stars could be so conscious about their looks, our girls, too, don’t have to look like Plain Janes,” she said.
Team work and responsibility
The word team really means Together Everyone Achieves More (team) and this is what the Pakistan women’s cricket team is all about. Sana, the captain, may even be younger than some of her team members but she is the one who holds them together. She patiently listens to all of them and gives good advice. When she reads about some new fact, which her father keeps texting her, she makes sure to share it with her team. She settles their differences, be they just the choice of music being played as the girls hardly have any other serious issues with each other. She makes sure everyone is looking after their health. When she found out that some of the girls hadn’t had much water during their brief Lahore trip, she tossed out bottled water to the back seats and ordered them to have a drink. You can’t have a better captain and friend who all the girls listen to and look up to.
Not to be underestimated
“When the Pakistan women’s team says they want to win the World Cup, I tell them they very well can,” says PCB Women’s wing manager Ayesha Ashhar. “This is not the team that didn’t know where to stand on the crease or where to bowl or how to place players on the field. They have come a very long way. And thanks to the new domestic structure there is more fresh talent coming in from all parts of the country to make the side stronger and better all the time,” she said.
“The PCB has organised Level-I coaching courses for all the team members, too, so that they can train others in their regions,” she provided.
Each girl in the Pakistan women’s cricket team has her own story of struggle, determination and perseverance to tell. They have all come a long way, causing major upsets in each international tournament, there is no undermining the Pakistan side in the World Cup. They have it in them to beat anybody on any good day. It remains to be seen how they fare in the upcoming event but they have left no stone unturned in training hard for it while helping each other on the way. So the end result really doesn’t matter. In this country where one girl took a bullet to be able to go to school, they are winners already!
1. Sana Mir (captain) 2. Nain Fatima Abidi 3. Bismah Maroof (vice captain) 4. Nida Rashid 5. Javeria Wadood 6. Sidra Amin 7. Rabia Shah 8. Batool Fatima Naqvi (wicketkeeper) 9. Asmavia Iqbal 10. Qanita Jalil 11. Sumaiya Siddiqui 12. Sadia Yousaf 13. Elizebath Barkat 14. Nahida Bibi 15. Diana Baig
Officials: Mohtashim Rasheed (chief coach), Tahir Mahmood (deputy coach), Basit Ali (batting coach), Yasir Malik (trainer), Ayesha Ashhar (manager) and Sunaina Munir (physiotherapist)
Schedule of ICC Women’s World Cup 2013
Date Teams Group Venue (tentative) Timing (PST)
Jan 31 India v West Indies A Mumbai 14:00 Feb 1 Australia v Pakistan B Bhubaneswar 8:30 Feb 1 New Zealand v South Africa B Barabati, Cuttack 14:00 Feb 1 England v Sri Lanka A Mumbai 8:30 Feb 3 India v England A Mumbai 8:30 Feb 3 Sri Lanka v West Indies A Mumbai 8:30 Feb 3 Pakistan v New Zealand B Barabati, Cuttack 8:30 Feb 3 Australia v South Africa B Bhubaneswar 8:30 Feb 5 India v Sri Lanka A Mumbai 8:30 Feb 5 England v West Indies A Mumbai 14:00 Feb 5 Pakistan v South Africa B Barabati, Cuttack 8:30 Feb 5 Australia v New Zealand B Bhubaneswar 8:30 Feb 7 Play Off A4 v B4 Barabati, Cuttack 8:30
SUPER SIX STAGE
Feb 8 A2 v B2 Mumbai 14:00 Feb 8 A1 v B1 Mumbai 14:00 Feb 8 A3 v B3 Bhubaneswar 8:30 Feb10 A2 v B1 Mumbai 14:00 Feb 10 A1 v B3 Barabati, Cuttack 8:30 Feb 11 A3 v B2 Mumbai 8:30 Feb 13 A1 v B2 Mumbai 8:30 Feb 13 A3 v B1 Mumbai 8:30 Feb 13 A2 v B3 Bhubaneswar 8:30 Feb 15 Playoff – 3rd/4th place Mumbai 8:30 Feb 15 Playoff – 5th/6th place Barabati, Cuttack 8:30
Feb 17 FINAL Mumbai 14:30