Nepal cricket's most celebrated female cricketer Rubina Chhetri in an interview with Female Cricket talks about her cricket journey, the hurdles obstructing the growth of women's cricket in Nepal and key areas for improvement. The dangling management, unprofessionalism and ignorance from state government has done huge harm to women's cricket in Nepal. Although, there has been some areas where cricket has shown progress in terms of infrastructure and facilities, but the quality of cricket still remains a major question. What else do you expect from a nation that plays just 1-2 matches in an entire cricket calendar year?
Rubina highlights some of these challenges and points out the steps that can help them revive the lost interest in women's cricket.
Excerpts from the interview here:
1) Take us through you childhood and initial cricketing days?
I started playing when I was 12. There was a group near my home and my cousin brothers along with other boys from society would play cricket. Every evening I sat near the balcony and watched them play this beautiful game. Their emotions, their love for the game eventually sparked an interest in me. One day, I decided to ask my brother if I could accompany him and see how cricket is played. Since then, I have never stopped playing cricket.
2) Have you always been a sports fanatic and how did cricket happen? Did you play any other sport growing up?
Right from my childhood, I was very much inclined toward sports. I initially picked up Table Tennis and Volleyball and also had the opportunity to represent Nepal at the highest level in both these gams. I started playing cricket parallel to these sports and picked up cricket professionally. It was indeed a great decision.
3) When and how did you get into the national cricket team? Which year did you make your debut?
I remember we had a selection match against one of the strong state teams. I was determined, bowled really well, impressed the selectors with my 6 wicket haul and was soon picked up for national camps. In the year 2009, I made my national debut.
4) How was cricket back then in Nepal when you started playing it? Has it evolved over the years?
The infrastructure, basis facilities and even proper cricket gears were a big challenge back then when I started playing cricket. We had very little access to these facilities. But when we compare it with today, I feel, Nepal women's cricket has come a long way and has made some serious progress.
5) Were your parents & relatives always supportive towards you playing cricket?
My family has been my biggest support system. I was my parents favourite child (laughs) and therefore had all the liberties. They never questioned my decision of playing cricket, rather encouraged me always.
6) Can you please throw some light on the current domestic structure of Nepal Women's Cricket? How are players selected to participate in the national side?
The domestic structure in Nepal isn't well planned. We hardly get to play matches i.e 1 or 2 matches per year. Being a player is a tough task here. Neither we have a fixed monthly salary, nor any contracts that would take care of our expenses and allow us play cricket. It's been 10 years that we are playing cricket professionally here, but we don't get monthly salaries, as strange as it may sound.
In the selection tournaments, we pick 40-50 girls, we further shortlist 24 and then pick a squad of 14 players to represent the national women's team of Nepal.
7) Tell us about the current management at Nepal Cricket?
It is improving, but a lot needs to be done from the management perspective. We need a stable management who could look after women's cricket affair and plan a vision for us.
8) There have been some serious issues regarding contracts and pay scales for players, what do you think is the main reason behind that?
It is disheartening to see the Nepal government doing nothing towards the women's cricket team. It is sad and very demotivating. Because of the same reason, we don't see girls willing to make cricket as their full-time profession.
9) Does Nepal cricket team play enough matches? 10) Do we have sufficient cricket academies in Nepal? Where do most of the girls train in Nepal?
You won't believe, whenever there is a tournament, we only get cricket camps just 15-20 days in advance and that's all we have to regroup as a team, practice and make our strategies. Otherwise, throughout the year we don't get any camps. How can you expect a team to develop then?
10) Do we have sufficient cricket academies in Nepal? Where do most of the girls train in Nepal?
Yes, there are couple of academies that have come up in the recent times. Compared to old days, we do have more cricket academies now. In eastern, western and far western, we have lots of women cricketer practicing cricket these days.
11) Is school / college women's cricket popular in Nepal?
Not in the colleges, but cricket in school is advancing now. More and more schools have started to introduce this sport as part of their curriculum.
12) What do you enjoy more, batting or bowling and why?
I enjoy fielding and fitness a lot. I feel these are 2 areas that one cannot ignore and will definitely help you in the long run. Everybody bats and bowls, but should also focus on their fielding and fitness skills. These are the skills that gives you an edge over your competitors.
13) What is that one thing needed to improve the state of women's cricket in Nepal?
Yes there is a need to improve cricket at the grass root levels, only then can one expect Nepal cricket to perform well in the tournaments.
14) There are so many aspiring players today in Nepal who look up to you. What would be your message to them?
I feel, the 3 D's can take you places - Discipline, Dedication and Determination. They are super important. You got to love your work and be very sincere to it and do not be worried about the results. That's the mantra I personally follow and implement in my life.
15) Is women's cricket in Nepal financially viable sport? What are other occupations / roles does players have to take up?
As I already mentioned, we aren't paid at all and there's not much cricket happening for the girls in Nepal. Therefore, most of the cricketers have already left, gone abroad to pursue higher studies. Some of them are even working in Schools and Banks, etc. If the situation remains the same, women's cricket world slowly vanish from Nepal landscape.