The rise of women's cricket in the past decades has been tremendous. Breaking stereotypes, following their dreams, the superwomen of the world have made their mark. The field with green grass and a brown patch to many might not mean a thing but to some its where they live their dream. The 22 yard circle to many might just be a geometric shape with some color and energy but to some it is the place where their life starts and ends. It’s the place where they want the time to stop and life to take a pause.
All of us know about the flourished teams like India, Australia, England and so on and so forth but do we know enough about teams like Iran? Or maybe Qatar? Or say Kuwait? Yes, these nations also have their cricket teams. They also have been taking one step at a time and their progress graph only goes upwards and onwards towards reaching their goals. So, lets take a ride to see cricket in the Middle East along with the challenges that they face on the path to reach their destination. But that’s what dreams are made of and nobody said it would be easy and these teams have surely made us believe that even though it’s not easy it’s surely worth the while.
Extremely hot and arid regions with temperatures soaring to 45 degrees, the women have proved that there is no shortcut in life and that there is no substitute for hard-work and commitment. Dreams are to be chased and goals are to be achieved, these women have faced the obstacles and have only looked to move forward.
Among the many countries in the Middle East, we would look at a few starting from the lesser known ones.
Bringing dreams to reality, the women of Iran represented their country in cricket for the very first time in 2009. Losing to Nepal, the Nahid Hakimian led team made their debut appearance in the ACC Women’s T20 Championship. Having two of their coaches out the three from Pakistan brought ample experience to the table considering Pakistan Cricket already being flourished by then. Led by Captain Nasimeh Rahshetaei, the Iran Women’s Team played their last game in 2014 and ended up in the 6th position in the ACC Women’s Premiere. Having restrictions imposed on education and males having the right to ban females from working is one of the major challenges that women had to overcome.
Restrictions on clothing, these women play with scarfs covering their heads (known as rusari) even in temperatures as high as 40 degrees and above. A sport that requires running at every ball being bowled, they have certainly shown that there are no excuses but only ways to be made out. In the short span of time, this team achieved a feat that many teams take years to get to - they bagged the “Spirit of Cricket” award upholding the true true spirit of the game.
Member of ICC since 1998, Kuwait is led by Amna Sharif. They played their first ever match against China in Kuala Lumpur where they lost to their opponents. A forgettable experience in the ACC T20 Championship in 2009, they showed improvement in 2011. They lost to UAE in the T20 Championship organized by the Gulf Cricket Council in 2014. Not getting enough motivation and encouragement from the government and the society, it takes courage and strength to stand up on their own feet. Good news being that there has been growing admiration for sports in Kuwait which has led the Sultan to say “work hard, play hard”.
Kuwait Women's National Coach Syed Tariq Rasool Shah has been with the team since the past ten years. A lot to his credit, he spoke about how he has come across “now experienced cricketers” coming to him having no idea about cricket. Having to practice at 58-59 degrees temperature, results in a decrease of efficiency and thus an extra effort to maintain physical fitness is required. Patience and keenness according to Syed is a concern because cricketers often don’t want to repeat shots and techniques that leads to lack in perfection. However, they still are pushed to do the same that makes them move only upwards and onwards.
Making its debut in 2009, the Qatar Women’s Cricket Team has only seemed to be flourishing with time. Placing last in the 2014 edition they made it to the finals of the T20 Championship hosted by the Gulf Cricket Council the following year but lost to UAE. Though there is a lot of development to take place, the women are moving forward with a positive attitude.
Oman also made its debut back in 2009 in the ACC T20 Championship. Though the team did not get the start it wanted, they have come a long long way in the past five years. Participating in the GCC, Oman has been a member of the International Cricket Council since 2000. The major stepping stone for the Oman Women’s Cricket Team was their tour of Malaysia in December 2017. Having played against a team that had recently played the Asia Cup qualifiers came as a great boost for them and was also the first tournament that they played under the direct eye of the ICC. Led by Captain Anu Amal and coached by Sajith Kumar, manager Vaishali Jesrani was all praises for Oman Cricket to have given their team such an opportunity. She saw a big positive where this tour is concerned - one that much of their spin department would be tested and second that this tour would encourage more girls to make it into the game. Cricket is a sport that gives a chance to Oman to be on the “global sporting map” according to Times Oman.
Coming to the more known team, UAE Women’s Team led by Humaira Tasneem has been part of ICC since 1990. It went onto make its international debut against Bangladesh in 2007. Playing against Netherlands, it also made its first T20 International debut in early July 2018. Having being bowled out for only 39 runs against Bangladesh, the UAE team was led by Natasha Cherriath who was just 12 years of age. The team was under the guidance of Smitha HariKrishna who was a former ODI player for India. UAE Women’s Cricket has gone far beyond with players representing teams at the much talked about exhibition matches of the Women’s Big Bash League and have shown major progress at the International Level. Making it to the qualifiers of the WT20 for the very first time since their debut they also got guidance and tips from Indian spinner Ashwin. The Murali Chockalingam coached side has broken barriers and looks to only move forward caring the paths and improving at every step.
Is it easy? Is it easy to be among those 11-15 people to represent the country? Is it easy to take losses in your stride and move on with positivity all the time? Is it easy to take all the blame when your team is not performing especially at the start? Is it easy to break through the barriers of society? Play in temperatures where one would see nothing beyond cold drinks and air conditioners? Yet, there are people who’ve done it. And that’s why I started this article describing them as “superwomen”. There are these amazingly talented women who have found a way to live their dream and that motivation and belief of “I CAN” has oustayed the strength of the obstacles that they have had to face.
May it be the heat or having to play with their heads covered, determination, belief and faith has not only been able to successfully prove to themselves that even IMPOSSIBLE has POSSIBLE in it but also sends across a message to people that following your passion is always a great idea and having belief in yourself makes it happen. We, at female cricket wish all these superwomen the very best. The journey might be long and the path might be crooked but one step at a time is always appreciated. And each step matters.