2. You come from a small town called Singrauli in MP, how was the perception about cricket there?
Before cricket, I have represented Madhya Pradesh in football Nationals and was a Gold medalist in state athletics (100m). I was the only girl playing with boys. Although, my family supported me very well but the society used to complain.
But after the world cup 2017, public views has totally changed. Now they also want their girls to do something big!
3. A bright student at school who scored 92% in 12th boards, how did you manage cricket alongside your studies?
I got 91.8% (commerce+maths).
I used to miss a lot of classes but I'm very thankful to every institution I went as they supported me a lot.
I remember in 12th, one month before my board exams, I used to go to 3 coaching classes of different subjects directly after school. All my staff members gave a lot more time to me those days.
4. You also played other athlete sports and fell in love with football in your early days. How has that helped you in cricket, particularly wicket-keeping
Basically I played forward in football and it helped me a lot to maintain my stamina and strength which is much important in any game. For wicket keeping, I had the craze about gloves and it was the hardest department which my district team wanted me to do. From football I gained strength in legs and that is how it helped me in keeping.
5. You spent your initial cricket days playing cricket with boys in MP. How difficult was it to match-up with boy’s game?
The boys at Singrauli used to give me equal opportunity to practice with them and compete them. So I never faced any difficulty to match-up with boys in any region.
6. When did you realize your passion for the game and that you want to pursue cricket as a career?
In 2011, Madhya Pradesh junior team got disqualified and it trashed my hopes to play nationals. So, in 2012 I wanted to make my team play nationals. In the same year in a tournament I met Mithali di and she became my idol.Then I realized that why shouldn't I pursue cricket as my career.
7. Who were your role model / inspiration whilst growing up?
My family especially my elder brother Aamir Sohail who on his own headed to USA for studies and managed everything calmly. He supported me the most to set my career in this field. Also, my elder sister Nemat Parween used to teach me in my schooldays so that I never faced any problem in studies. My parents inspired me to think practically and open mindedly.
8. You moved to Rewa, another city in MP in search for better school & opportunities in cricket? How easy/difficult was this decision?
I used to go Rewa (9 hours from Singrauli by road) for 15-20 days in 3 months just to practice well under Aril Anthony Sir. It wasn't that much easy as travelling by road happened to be the worst journey for me those days and that too by bus, but just to work harder and improve better I was ready to do anything.
9. Highlight the difficult times you and your family have faced at the beginning of your journey?
As Singrauli is a small town, there were a lot of problems during travelling. Shortage of trains that too not on time and my parents used to worry about my security as I traveled alone all the time.
10. Your family has been with you through your thick and thin. What do you have to say to them?
It is my luck that I got a family (Father- Masih Alam, Mother- Nasima Begum, Elder brother- Aamir Sohail, Elder sister- Nemat Parween, Younger sister- Aasiyah Parween and younger brother- Ayan Ashraf Sohail) who being from a Muslim caste never restricted me to play. We did not follow parda system. Narrow minded society couldn't stop us. Of course, they were worried about my late evening practices but never said "NO" to my games! My parents as well as siblings helped me to become what I'm today!
11. Who else from your near & dear ones has contributed the most to your success?
Wherever I went, every coach I met and all my friends made a positive environment around me for me to perform harder. I personally want to thank all my schoolmates, seniors and staffs from MP, KNC college staffs, school staffs, District Members and seniors, Western railway seniors and Diana ma'am for having faith in me. Special mention to my friends whom I could call at 5 in the early morning. They have all contributed to my success.
12. Could you recall the moment when you first got to know of your selection in the National team? Did you dance out of joy? What were your initial few reactions?
Soon after the challengers trophy, I was travelling back to Singrauli (after applying for passport at Bhopal) ,2 of my cricket friends sent the list of West Indies tour and Asia Cup in the group and I was in train, not able to download those files immediately. But when I saw those messages, I went like.. Woowww. For a moment, I thought I was dreaming. The best day of my life, indeed.
13. How proud were your family and friends, knowing that you have made it to the national team?
As soon as I got to know about my selection in the team, I wanted to inform my family members who have prayed the most for my success. They were the first whom I told this news. And the best part was that I was travelling with my best friend that day. She was more happier than me. Soon, this good news spread like a fire and all my family members were on cloud nine. My seniors whose advice I had followed throughout my career were very much excited to watch my debut match. All my friends and staffs were very happy.
14. Take us through your T20 national debut match against West Indies in India last year? Were you nervous or excited?
Honestly speaking, I wasn't nervous at all. Maybe because I had already shared the dressing room with most of the Indian players in Indian Railways Team. I was really calm and did not let anxiety cover my mind. Representing blue Indian jersey is the most special feeling one can ever have.
15. You have played 1 ODI and 3 T20I so far. How was it representing India every time after being through so much of struggles?
I take it as a new challenge everytime I go to perform on the field. I take things ball-by-ball, without focusing much on the end result. The feeling of wearing Indian jersey, goosebumps when the National Anthem is sang, crowds cheering and supporting your team makes it all the more special.
16. You were the youngest after Deepti Sharma in the World Cup squad. How does it feel to have played a World Cup tournament at such a young stage?
I think this is the right age to do something big. All legends have done great during this age only. But with an experience of just 1 One Day International match, getting into the world cup squad was not less than an achievement for me. The advantage of being less experienced and junior was that every member in the Indian squad along with the staff motivated and pampered us like kids. World Cup was a great learning experience.
17. How was it like sharing a dress room with legends Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami and Harmanpreet Kaur.
It was nothing less than a dream for me. The legends whose pictures I had saved in my phone were right in front of me giving world record performances. I feel I was really fortunate and privileged to have such an opportunity.
18. How did people reacted when you came back home (Singrauli) after a successful world cup tour?
They treated us like never before. I did not expect that the people will come in crowd just to receive me on station. A band group of children and DCA Singrauli members, Media alongwith my family celebrated the day. I felt so special, my arrival was no less than an occasion for people in Singrauli. Everyday I attended 3-4 functions at Singrauli.
19. Which has been the most special World Cup moment still fresh in your heart?
Winning semi final against Australia with that mind-blowing inning by Harry di and beating 6 times champions was the most special I feel. It made us realize how powerful we Indian Women's team are.
20. What is your take on our platform – Female Cricket? Would love to share your piece of advice / feedback.
You are doing a commendable job by giving timely updates to our society regarding Women's Cricket. Through "Female Cricket" platform, most of the people get to know about their country's pride. Thankyou!
Answer in one word (your favorite):
1. Movie - Chak de India
2. Place to hangout with friends - Leh Ladakh
3. Cricket player- Mithali Raj
4. Song- Iktara
5. Junk food - panipuri
6. Holiday Destination - Malaysia
9. Best friend (in the team) - Deepti and Mansi