Against huge odds, Kash­mir’s women crick­eters dream of mak­ing Team In­dia

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - Ro­[email protected] times­group.com L-R: Bis­mah Has­san, 20, comes from the vi­o­lent re­gion of Soura Baspura, Sri­na­gar, and plays for J&K Women se­nior’s team; Iqra Ra­sool, 18, is a pacer from Bara­mulla; Khus­b­hoo plays for Jammu & Kash­mir U-19

Bara­mulla/Sri­na­gar: Bis­mah Has­san, 20, an­i­mat­edly fleshes out her Shrey hel­met and a pair of pads and earnestly takes guard at the Jammu and Kash­mir Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion nets in Sri­na­gar.

The Jammu & Kash­mir women team all-rounder fixes her gaze at the white leather ball in the hands of the Bara­mulla lanky pacer Iqra Ra­sool’s be­fore she pulls it over the mid-wicket bound­ary.

Be­tween them Qausar Jabeen, 24 and Ru­biya Syed, 22, are sprint­ing across the ground for a warm-up.

Though there’s a bit of rusti­ness due to the lack of prac­tice since Au­gust 5 when the law and or­der re­stric­tions kept the grounds out of ac­cess, the grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion of as­pir­ing women crick­eters from Kash­mir’s vil­lages, re­mains sharp. Play­ing for Jammu & Kash­mir, on Thurs­day, some of these girls flew to Jammu where se­lec­tion tri­als are tak­ing place for the up­com­ing U-19, U-23 and women’s se­nior cricket team that will play its sched­uled matches for the sea­son be­gin­ning Oc­to­ber 14.

“In­sha al­lah, I will make it with fly­ing colours in the tri­als. I am glad I could keep up with my prac­tice at my home with male mem­bers dur­ing this pe­riod. I didn’t stop prac­tice. My goal is to play for Team In­dia some­day. But that will hap­pen only with hard work. I am ex­cited for the up­com­ing T20 sea­son,” says Has­san, clad in a blue jer­sey and track pants, with a lo­tus logo.

Amid hopes of de­clin­ing mil­i­tancy and anti-In­dia sen­ti­ments in the Val­ley, these girls from mod­est back­ground are look­ing for a bright fu­ture to rub shoul­ders with their idols like Mithali Raj, Jhu­lan Goswami and Har­man­preet Kaur.

Has­san, a daugh­ter of a ma­son from Sri­na­gar’s Soura — the hot­bed of sep­a­ratism which erupted with vi­o­lent protests af­ter the Cen­tre re­voked spe­cial sta­tus of J&K on Au­gust 5 — is the most talked about in­spi­ra­tional crick­eter in state’s women se­nior team.

On the other hand, Ra­sool, who has grown up mak­ing cakes and but­ter­cups at her fa­ther’s tiny bak­ery shop in Bara­mulla’s Dangi­wacha, has just re­turned from Kolkata to ce­ment her place in U-19 and U-23 team for J&K.

“I was hand­picked by for­mer Aus­tralian cap­tain Michael Clarke for train­ing in Kolkata. But my dream is to rep­re­sent Jammu & Kash­mir in na­tion­als and In­dia in In­ter­na­tional,” said Ra­sool.

Apart from break­ing the gen­der glass ceil­ing in the con­ser­va­tive sec­tions of Kash­mir so­ci­ety, the young women crick­eters from un­der­priv­i­leged fam­i­lies have also taken upon them­selves to be suc­cess­ful bread-win­ners. Jabeen, who is third among seven sis­ters, for ex­am­ple, has to en­sure mar­riage prospects for other sib­lings. Thanks to their phys­i­cal stamina and moun­tain reg­i­men com­bined with their will and de­ter­mi­na­tion, they be­lieve they can ful­fil their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

J&K cricket’s Jam­mubased head coach Ru­pali, who played for Team In­dia in 2006, be­lieves that its time that these girls cre­ate a le­gacy of their own.

“We are work­ing hard to en­sure Val­ley rep­re­sen­ta­tion in our state team. Ev­ery year, we have six to seven girls from Anant­nag, So­pore, Bara­mulla, Tral and such dif­fi­cult places. Not many girls from elite class and ur­ban ar­eas come. But these girls pros­per and bring us glory and pride,” said Ru­pali.

The girls get Rs. 700 a day dur­ing se­lec­tion tri­als for food and lodg­ing. The cost for com­mut­ing be­tween their vil­lages to the sta­dium and flights for train­ing is to be borne solely by them.

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