KARACHI: It is a rare honour to return to your alma mater as a hero and see the pride in your teachers’ eyes while the students there look up to you. The captain of Pakistan’s women’s cricket team Sana Mir was lucky enough to enjoy such moments on Thursday.
Sana, who now lives in Lahore, touched base in Karachi along with a few other teammates from the city, when they visited the Defence Authority College for Women, where the old student was hailed as the ‘Silver Star’, at the college’s silver jubilee year.
Eager to see her again, Sana’s Urdu teacher, Dr Rubina Sarwar, shared with Dawn that she could feel a kind of restlessness in the girl’s spirit from early on. “She wanted to go play but she would be worried about missing her lessons, too. But I would tell her that it was fine and she could catch up. I’m so glad I said that,” the teacher smiled at the memory.
The college principal, Dr Farhat Agha, also said that she was proud of all students, especially those like Sana who have overcome gender barriers and made a name for themselves not only on the national level but also on the international stage. “Sana, the only Pakistan women’s team captain to have defeated India twice, is a trailblazer,” she said.
"In 2010, my bowling action was termed ‘suspicious’. The ICC tested me in Australia and I failed. I decided to give up cricket but my mother reminded me that I was not a quitter. So I made a comeback as an opening batswoman and am not so bad at it either,” said Javeria Wadood, giving the students a little lesson in perseverance.
Sana herself said that she felt the same as she used to when studying at the college. “Though my college didn’t have a cricket team, I was captain of various other outfits here such as the basketball team, the swimming team, etc. This place gave me the confidence to lead,” she added, remembering how she would sometimes bunk classes with her friends to gather at a particular spot behind the spiral staircase in the basketball court, which they called ‘khadda’. “We would sit there to exchange notes about what happened in class and reflect,” she shared.
Praising her teammates as they share the success of the Pakistan women’s team, Sana introduced the ones present starting with Javeria Wadood Khan, or Jerry as she is popularly known as. “I became a part of the team as a bowler in 2008 hoping to hit instant stardom. But then in 2010 my bowling action was termed ‘suspicious’. The ICC tested me again in Australia and I failed the test. Suddenly I hit fame but not the way I had imagined. I decided to give up cricket but my mother reminded me that I was not a quitter. She encouraged me to try my hand at batting. So I made a comeback as an opening batswoman and am not so bad at it either,” she said, giving the students a little lesson in perseverance.
Next was former wicket-keeper Batool Naqvi, who, after creating several international records, left her team two years back when she got married. “Today I am the mother of a baby boy but even now when I see my team playing a match on TV I feel as if I’m right there with them on the field,” she said.
Nain Abidi, another Karachi girl, who happens to be the most agile fielder in the side, said that while growing up everyone in her family called her ‘monkey’ because she would hop and jump around so much. Then after she had broken too many lights and windows at home her mother told her to go find a ground to play. “And I did,” Nain laughed. On a serious note, she said that she always saw a little Pakistan flag pinned on her late father’s coat lapel and playing for Pakistan made her realise that sense of pride for her country.
“Today I am the mother of a baby boy but even now when I see my team playing a match on TV I feel as if I’m right there with them on the field,” said former wicket keeper Batool Naqvi.
Ayesha Zafar, who studies at the Institute of Business Administration and has found herself playing for the national side after being discovered at the under-19 level, said that her father was fine with her playing cricket but not at the cost of her education. “I even did my A-Levels in four months so that I could feature in a cricket tournament. Now I am doing my BBA but am lucky to have class fellows who take notes for me and also have me marked present by proxy so that I won’t fall behind in my studies while playing cricket for my country,” she said.
“Still, I have had to miss out on one semester,” she added.
One of the younger members of the team, 18-year-old Muneeba Ali, said that she was glad to find herself in the Women’s World T20 squad after being a part of the Pakistan A-Team.
The team coach Mohtashim Rashid, who was also present, said that he believed in building on the girls’ confidence and making them aware of their qualities. “They all listen to me and give me so much respect that being their coach becomes worthwhile.”
Later, in the evening, the Girls in Green arrived at The Second Floor (T2F), courtesy Girls at Dhabas, to meet a different audience. Former captain Urooj Mumtaz Khan also came to join them there.
A selector now, Urooj, also a mother to a six-month-old, said that there are avenues open for women cricketers in administration matters after retirement. Former wicket-keeper Batool, who has tried her hand at cricket commentary, agreed with her.
Sana Mir, while replying to a question about taking on India on the field, said that she is the daughter of an army officer, so her first coach back in 2005 had reminded her of that when playing against India and ordered her to break her opponents’ teeth.
“Then in 2013, when we visited India to play in the ICC Women’s World Cup, we received threats from the Shiv Sena, which is not a nice memory as we were kept away from the other teams for security reasons at a time when interaction with other players is important for us to gain exposure,” she said.
But then she narrated a recent incident which, she said, changed her entire perception.
“We have always had aggressive thoughts for India but this time before our match with India, a little boy, who couldn’t have been more than eight-years-old, and who was standing with me when our national anthem played, turned to me before leaving and wished me good luck,” Sana shared. “That’s fine sportsmanship spirit for you,” she said.
Originally published in Dawn, April 8th, 2016