Almost every favorite activity in Pakistan, not just on a Sunday, but on a particular day, is to play cricket. Be it hardball or tape-ball, be it on the street or on the roof, on the ground or in a park. No matter what, cricket never stops.
But how many times have you seen girls playing openly on the streets around you? Or practice in a local area network near you? I’m sure you rarely see girls play cricket in open areas. You can argue about the dynamics of our society, about the limitations that allow women to move freely, without being in danger of being harassed, and so on and so forth.
Not so long ago, Sana Mir, currently the world’s No. 1 Women’s International Cricket Council (ICC) for women, raised its voice on the availability of infrastructure and separate facilities for girls to pursue their passion and not to play only cricket, but any other sport.
Countries like Australia, England and even neighboring India have made great strides in providing basic facilities for women athletes. They know how important it is to empower women in sports. Unfortunately this is not the case in Pakistan.
It took me 12 years to become number one in the world, and it clearly does not want the current generation and the next generation to take a lifetime to achieve their goals and to appreciate Pakistan.
All it requires is an investment in basic facilities such as separate networks, small facilities, parking spaces and training centers in every city. For example, a girl from the north does not have to travel all the way to a metropolis like Lahore just to start a basic education.
The current number of women representing Pakistan at international level has not been an easy journey. Nevertheless, they play without complaint for their country. It’s just her sheer passion for the game that keeps her running. Even then, we expect them to be the best in the world without paying attention to the problems they face. Imagine what it would be like to remove the hurdles to basic training. Introduce yourself.
For beginners, girls must be encouraged to do sports at school. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) last year organized an indoor cricket championship for girls. It was a brilliant initiative. Tournaments like these all over Pakistan make girls believe that they can have a future in cricket.
The PCB can also partner with schools to practice and train girls’ facilities in their schools. The next step must be to open up state-of-the-art academies in Pakistan with proper trainers, dieticians and fitness trainers. Just as with men’s cricket, women’s cricket must be given equal importance, if not more. These steps are critical to the development of world-class players, who will become the next Sana Mirs.
Interest in cricket among girls in Pakistan is growing by the minute. They want to learn how to hold the bat, with a clean action and with the technical aspects of the game. But to whom should they go to learn the basics?
Now is the time for the Board and its stakeholders to invest at the grassroots level. It will not be long before the Pakistani women’s cricket team becomes as good as the Australian, English or Indian, and girls from Pakistan will not only play female T20 leagues, but also their own female version of the Pakistan Super League.
What are you waiting for girls? It is never too late to hold a bat or a ball. To make a difference, we all have to make a contribution.
There is still hope; I hope it will not be another 12 years for Pakistan to become the No. 1 in the world. There is still the hope that girls can go out on the street unseen. There is still hope that one day Pakistan will take a leading position in empowering women in sport.