On Thursday, a constellation of stars took over the Last Word as the Pakistan Women’s Cricket Team sat down for a meet & greet session with Zeb Bangash and Sanayah Malik from Girls at Dhabas. The event was aimed to pay homage to the team and congratulate them on their phenomenal performance in the World T20 Games 2016.
The session attracted Lahoris from all age groups, who had come to recognise the achievements of these outstanding women and show their support. The panel included players -- Sana Mir, Bisma Maroof, Nida Dar, Aliya Riaz, Iram Javed, Sidra Ameen, Marina Iqbal and the team’s coach, Mohtesham Rashid, who narrated heartening stories both from their cricket careers and personal lives, with focus on their recent success at the Women’s T20 World Cup.
Commenting on their win against India, Sana Mir said it was the players’ confidence in the field and support of Pakistanis all over the world as well as the media, which helped them win.
While discussing the rivalry with India, she said: “At the start of our careers, winning against India had always been crucial for us as Pakistani cricket players. However, after playing internationally for many years against India and other teams, we realised that winning against all the teams is equally important as it helped us understand the sport better.”
When asked about his experience of working as the team’s coach, Mr Mohtesham said: “I have never been able to achieve the same level of success with any men’s cricket team as I have achieved while coaching the women’s cricket team.” He explained that the women players were always willing to learn and therefore it was easier to help polish their skills and work on their weaknesses. He also appreciated the team for their hard work despite lack of resources and support at the start from both the media and the cricket board.
"At the start of our careers, winning against India had always been crucial for us as Pakistani cricket players. However, after playing internationally for many years against India and other teams, we realised that winning against all the teams is equally important as it helped us understand the sport better."
Talking about their strengths as a team, each one of them felt that it was their ‘unity’ and ‘teamwork’ that kept them going.
Marina Iqbal said the team had developed a ‘natural bonding’ over the years after facing ups and downs together, so much so that they even spent most of the time off field together.
While narrating their personal journeys, the players talked about the challenges they had to face as young girls, especially those like Nida Dar and Aliya Riaz, who had to move from other cities to Lahore, as their families would either disapprove of them playing cricket or worry about them living alone. However, she said, with hard work and determination, coupled with passion for the sport, they made their way to the national cricket team. After their success in Asia Games in 2010 and 2014, their families started to support them and they were able to continue their dream careers.
The highlight of the session was when the team revealed fun facts about each other, like their nicknames that ranged from ‘Hitler Mir’ (Sana Mir), ‘Dar’ (Nida Dar) and ‘Yo’ for Irum Ameen, inspired by the singer Honey Singh whose songs she used to sing during the tours.
Concluding the session, Sana said when she joined the team, they were nowhere to be seen in the world rankings. However, over the years, they were able to build their confidence enough to fearlessly play against any team and win to reach top of the rankings. She believed that was achieved with the support from the media, society, their families and friends, who recognised their efforts and they were able to aim for higher goals, like the T20 World Cup.
“(We should) recognise our heroes and stand with them in all times, so more heroes could be made in the future,” she said.
A previous version of this story had a factual error, which has been corrected.
Originally published in Dawn, April 1st, 2016