Women cricketers from Kashmir shine in Pune, thanks to the Indian Army
Anantnag XI, an all-female cricket team from the city in Jammu & Kashmir, played their last exhibition match, beating Pune XI on February 13. The team was on a visit to Pune and Mumbai from February 6 to 14 to play exhibition matches with the local teams. The tour was organised by the Pune-based Aseem Foundation and 19 Rashtriya Rifles (SIKH LI) of the Indian Army as part of an initiative - ‘Operation Sadbhavana’, to promote sports, and enhance interaction between the population from border areas and the mainland of the country.
"Sport is an excellent medium for bringing people together. Any sport played together, keeping aside all differences, can cast aside obstacles and build bridges of friendship,” said Sarang Gosavi, founder of Aseem Foundation.
The Bridge Chronicle caught up with the young women cricketers from Kashmir.
Rubiya Sayed is the captain of Anantnag XI, and one of the most talked-about woman cricketers from the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Being the senior-most player in the young squad of 14 girls, she also trains the girls and shares the experience that she has got playing at the senior level over the years.
“It is important for these girls to gain a good experience from this tour. From the time we have come here, there is a lot of interest generated back home about our tour. These girls will inspire more people in our state to become professional cricketers,” Sayed said.
According to Rubiya Sayed, cricket is an extremely popular sport not just in Anantnag but all over Kashmir, but she couldn’t play last year due to the raging pandemic. Back on the cricket field after a gap of 11 months, she is excited to start her professional training again.
“All the grounds were closed during the lockdown. I missed playing outdoors during that time but I made sure I keep-up with my fitness. So, I practiced inside my home,” Sayed said.
The team also got the opportunity to pick the brain of Indian international player Kedar Jadhav, who met the entire team last week. Former Indian captain Dilip Vengsarkar also met the team when they landed in Pune last week.
“It was great meeting Kedar Jadhav, he shared some insightful tips with the team and we also got an opportunity to share our week points with him,” Sayed said.
Another senior member of the team, Fancy Jan believes such tournaments are proving to be a blessing for the young girls. “This tour is much better than I expected because we have got amazing facilities here and the young cricketers are also making most of these events... It was unexpected. I want to thank the Indian Army and Aseem Foundation for arranging this tour.”
Mehak Sufi, 19, who is the wicket-keeper of the team and idolises MS Dhoni, says it is never easy for the girls and they have to work much harder than male-counterparts, “If we talk about women playing sports in Kashmir, people would probably laugh at your face. Also, we don’t get as good facilities as boys. In Anantnag, there is only one ground, so boys are allowed first to play there. We have practice on the corner but that too only in summers. In winters, there are no indoor facilities for girls.”
Sufi says sometimes people also ask her what she will achieve by playing cricket. “People keep saying that I am a girl and it is just a waste of time for me to play cricket but my family has been supportive and they motivate to play,” she says.
A huge Smriti Mandhana fan, Sufi wants to represent India at the International level. “It’s my only dream, my only passion that keeps the flame buring inside,” she says.