An event was held at The Last Word in honour of the Pakistan Women Cricket Team which has just returned after playing in the Women’s World T20. Pakistan did not win the title, but the girls in green surely won our hearts. The meet and greet with the national team was attended by Captain Sana Mir and other members of the team. The event was hosted by Zeb of the Zeb and Haniya band.
The event began with a documentary on the lives of the members of the national team. Sana Mir, the captain, began her talk by sharing with the audience the response that the team received after their successive victories in the World Cup. She said the amount of support they had received was over overwhelming.
Talking about the strength of the team, Sana said the players are each other’s support.
“It is this support that has made the team what it is today,” the captain said, and added, “Our unity is our strength. We were united even in hard times, when there were no facilities. Most of us started playing when the women team did not get any sort of recognition in the country. But we had one passion – to make Pakistan proud. This is what made us stronger every time we came out,” she said.
The players acknowledged Sana’s role in keeping the team united. No captain bothers to give attention to every player by talking to them personally except for Sana.
“We do things together. We hang out and watch movies together. We are together on and off the field and this is what keeps us united. It is this unity that has helped us improve our performance,” the girls said.
Sana said the recognition and love the team received this time was different and new and that its effect will be visible in the coming years.
“In 2005, when I joined the team, the first thing we realised was that teams like India and Sri Lanka were far ahead of us. We gave confidence to one another in order to compete with the teams that were much better than us,” she said.
Sana recalls the first time the Pakistan Women Team won a gold medal in 2010.
“It was then that people came to know that there is a women’s team that represents the country,” Sana said. “From here, we got the required confidence and the team started flourishing. That support made us beat India for the first time in a world cup. The love and support that we are getting now will surely help us go further,” she said.
The national team Coach Mohtashim Rasheed said that the team has become the best in Asia as it has beaten every Asian team.
“We are close to becoming one of the top four teams in the world. Our wish was to win the Women’s World T20 but losing is part of the game too,” he said.
When asked about the difference between coaching men and women cricketers, Mohtashim said boys have a know-it-all attitude and they don’t take things seriously. Girls, on the other hand, are always ready to learn new things, he said.
The coach of the national team told the audience that his philosophy is that of empowerment. I saw the girls’ difficult time. They were determined even when they had no facilities. But now our team is internationally-recognised and I was lucky that I got to work with them, he said.
One of the players, Nida Dar, told how her family was unsupportive when she began playing cricket.
“My brother said he did not want a cricket house, even though he played games himself. I said I wanted to play and my family allowed me but they did not let my brother know I was playing. I practised at Punjab University five days a week and skipped practice on weekends so that my brother does not find out about it,” she said.
But Nida’s brother had a change of heart. When she won the Asian games in 2010, her brother was cheering her on.
“At first he did not tell anyone about my playing cricket,” Nida said. “But now he is proud to call himself my brother.”
Bisma Maroof, also known as the fittest girl in the team, recalls the time she started playing cricket.
“I was 14. I remember how I fell down after scoring 82 runs in a match. When I went to South Africa, I realised how important it was for a player to maintain her fitness. I made up my mind then that I was going to focus on my fitness.” Sana Mir revealed that the fitness test proved Bisma was fitter than some of the players of the men’s cricket team.
Alia Riaz, another player, told the audience she had to convince her parents to let her play by getting good grades in exams.
Iram Javed also shared her story with the audience. Sana Mir talked about how Iram showed excellent performance under pressure in the match against India. “It was a crucial game and she was determined to put in a performance,” she said.
In response to a question, Sana Mir said that it is important to have educated people in cricket management.
“I told Pakistan Cricket Board there should be a minimum educational requirement for players who play international cricket.”
She said that educational institutions need to have sports facilities for students as this is the only way we can get more educated players in our teams. She added that things have changed as many institutions now give free education and accommodation to the sportswomen but more needs to be done. Sana urged the parents to help the women team by letting their girls play cricket.
Talking to media after the session, Sana said she decided to retire as captain because the next World Cup is in two years and that this is the right time for her retirement as the new captain will get enough time to prepare for the big tournaments.
The event was attended among others by Muniba Mazari, world’s first wheelchair-bound model. At the end of the session, the players were surrounded by fans who wanted autographs and selfies.