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