Cricket with the diplomats – women edition

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on May 26, 2014.

Islamabad – At the base of the Margalla Hills on Sunday, cricket was a ladies’ game.

The Pakistan national women’s cricket team and women from the foreign diplomatic missions in Islamabad played a friendly cricket match at the Saidpur Cricket Ground.

The match was organised by the Roots Millennium Schools with support from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the Australian High Commission.

In a mix-and-balance team arrangement typical of street cricket in Pakistan, the professional cricketers and members of the diplomatic community formed two mixed teams for the match.

Team Blue, led by Susan Heyward, the wife of the Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, batted first to post a total of 104 runs in 15 overs at the loss of three wickets. In reply Team Green, wearing the Pakistan women’s cricket team’s colours, only managed to score 75 runs. Pakistani cricketer Javeria Khan scored 49 runs for Team Blue and won the woman of the match award.

The match was attended by members of the foreign diplomatic community, Islamabad residents as well as students of the Mashal Model School, a charity school in Bari Imam that supports street children through education.

Faisal Mushtaq, Chief Executive Officer of Roots Millennium Schools, said Roots is supporting and facilitating the effort by the PCB to have a series of cricket matches involving the foreign diplomats. In February, the Diplomats’ XI had played a friendly match against the PCB Chairman’s XI at the same venue.

Mushtaq said on one hand, these cricket matches are attempts to get the diplomatic community to integrate while on the other hand, they also avow Pakistan’s pledge to revive international sports in the country.

“The main cause that the series is pushing is the commitment of Pakistan in promotion of international sports,” he said.

Intikhab Alam, former star cricketer and current PCB director, said the Australian High Commissioner Peter Heyward and his wife are keen followers of cricket. He said the PCB appreciates the diplomatic community’s support for the joint cricket match. Alam said for this particular match, the PCB, Australian High Commission and Roots mutually decided that a match for women should be held.

Alam said it is very difficult to say when international cricket will return to Pakistan but he said he was “optimistic” that it will happen soon. “People are changing their attitude towards us and we are having talks with Sri Lanka and India to get them to tour Pakistan,” Alam said

Australian High Commissioner Heyward said the women’s cricket match was an opportunity to show girl students in the audience that cricket is a fun and healthy activity. He said the match can inspire aspiring young female cricketers to play cricket professionally in the future.

One such aspiring cricketer from Mashal Model School was Sakina Bibi, who was picked up by Susan Heyworth to play for Team Blue.

Sakina, 13, said she is the captain of the Mashal girls’ cricket team. “I am an all-rounder,” she said, adding that she wants to play professional cricket.

The school’s founder and Principal Zeba Husain said Sakina’s cricket skills impressed the Australian High Commissioner and his wife when they visited the school recently.

“Sakina also helps her father at his vegetable shop and plays amazing cricket too,” Husain said. “Give them the opportunity and these children can rise to heights.”

Alam said “it is pleasing to see kids attend the match because they can learn a lot of cricketing skills from the professional players.” Bushra Aitzaz, head of the PCB’s Women Wing, encouraged the girls to think about representing Pakistan through cricket. “You have the potential to be professional cricketers of tomorrow,” Aitzaz told the girls.

Heyward said the Pakistan national women’s cricket team is all set to tour Australia in August, which will be a great opportunity for the Pakistani cricketers to test their mettle as Australia is the reigning world champion in women’s cricket.

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