23-year-old, Yasmeen Khan who is a Namibian cricketer and the current Vice-captain of the Namibia women’s national cricket team made her International debut on 20 August 2018, against Malawi, in the year 2018.
She was also named as the captain of Namibia’s squad for the 2019 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier tournament in Scotland and has very closely seen the growth of cricket in the country since then. Taking inspiration from her father, Yasmeen has set high expectations for her own self and wants to be an elite professional. She envisions positive growth in the Namibian women’s cricket ecosystem in the coming years.
Female Cricket got in touch with Yasmeen Khan to learn more about her initial cricket days and to understand the growth of women’s cricket in Namibia.
1. What age did you start playing cricket?
I started playing around age 10. At age 11, I started playing for our U/13 National Team.
2. Tell us about your childhood cricket days? How and where did it all begin for you?
My father is born in Pakistan and is a cricket fanatic. I guess it rubbed off on me since I was little. He always watched cricket on TV and I was fascinated by everything that was happening, from bowling to batting to fielding. At the time, I was very into fielding and bowling and really enjoyed diving for the ball and throwing as hard as I could. I started playing for my school’s u/13 boys team and progressed onto the u/17’s then their second team until I finally reached the first team of the school as I got older. Playing with boys was always going to be a challenge, as they hit harder, bowl faster, and have a lot of banter about girls playing cricket. At least my teammates never undermined me. I was really comfortable with them.
3. What age did you decide to take up professional cricket? Since when are you playing cricket for Namibia?
In 2013 at age 14 I got called up to our Women’s National Team and played in a Qualifier that year in Tanzania. Competing against teams like SA(Invitational), Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. I only recently started playing more professional as in school you have a lot of distractions and a tough schedule to keep up with. We are definitely heading into a more professional setup with Namibia Women’s Cricket.
4. Yasmeen, we have never seen a skipper in his early twenties in cricket very often. So how is the experience of leading the best players in your country at such a young age?
I have stepped down from captaincy in 2020 as I had/have a lot of demands and responsibilities because of my studies at the moment.
While I was Captain it was quite intimidating at first. I’ve been captain of the age group teams, which helped me gain experience in the field. I must say, captaining the National Team at a very high level, was a very challenging task, but with that said, it taught me a lot about myself and my game. Currently, I’m enjoying my game being vice-captain still with a leadership role, just not as intense.
However, I had the privilege to have been able to lead the team in big tournaments such as the Global Qualifiers we played in Scotland 2019.
5. A very interesting fact that came up quickly to us is that your debut in women’s t20 international was also the debut of your team into the format. It was in 2018. How has this journey been and how have you and the team grown with the games?
There have been many ups and downs since our debut but once we finally got onto the map, there was just a different vision for us. A sense of professionalism. It’s a big achievement for us as an associate member. According to the latest rankings, we are 21st in the T20 format which isn’t far from teams like UAE, Netherlands, and PNG. We are an exciting young team with a lot of talent to beat teams like that.
6. As a youngster, you made your entry into the side as a very young member, Who has been your best buddy or the best friend in the dressing room?
This is a no-brainer. My partner in crime has always been Kayleen Green. We made the team the same year and on the same tour. All of us really click though, but everyone always knows that if they see us doing something together, we mean business (or trouble, haha).
7. How has the game changed you as a person?
Cricket has taught me a lot of discipline and how to practice teamwork. Without cricket, I really don’t know who I would’ve been today if I think about it. I’m very happy with who I am now. I’m still learning and growing. I think a team sport like cricket gives you a second family and that’s priceless. It’s a very complex sport with regards to the different personalities you have to ‘deal’ with. I couldn’t see myself in an individual sport, why would I if I had a team that is like family to me.
9. How would you describe the progress of cricket as a sport in Namibia?
Cricket in Namibia isn’t as big as it is in India of course, but it is growing. Since our National Men’s team qualified for the World Cup and gained ODI status, it has become a lot more admired here. Namibia has a very small population, making it hard to have a variety of players to choose from. Women’s Cricket is definitely on the uprise. A lot of development has been done in order to get the pipeline of players to eventually one day play for the Women’s Team. The more numbers, the more competition.
10. Around the world, there has always been the apprehension that female cricket is not given the right attention or resources as compared to their male counterparts. What is your perspective on the difference between men and women’s Cricketing settings as the Vice-captain of the Namibian women’s side?
Obviously, cricket has been a male-dominated sport. If we look at countries such as India, Australia, England, and even South Africa, they’ve all reached a level where men and women are ‘treated’ equally important. That is what I hope for Namibian Women’s cricket. It takes time to get to that level, but we are not far behind. It is of course easier when the funding is there to support, but how we get there is by delivering performances.
11. As mentioned earlier, Cricket is colossal in India but still, there are reservations on a girl child opting cricket as the career. Take us to the day when you decided to invest yourself into the game and how was the reaction from your family members.
My family has been supporting me since the get-go. My father has been a huge influence on me and my mother also developed that passion. She’s been my rock throughout my career.
I can’t really pinpoint the day I really started taking it up seriously. It would probably be when I was around 17. I remember being in such good form. Every day after school, I just wanted to practice.
After matriculating, I took a gap year, to literally just train and play cricket for my country. It was the year before our Regional Qualifiers in 2019. We trained like never before. We came second to Zimbabwe in the Africa qualifiers, which was a major accomplishment for us. My parents are more excited than I am sometimes! I think that’s what also motivated me to push through tough days and I am thankful for that.
12. As a kid were you into Cricket and were you following a player or a role model so to say. What is the first memory that draws into your mind when I say Cricket?
We used to play a lot of backyard cricket with my brother and his friends. My role model was Younis Khan. He was a very elegant batter, and I always wanted to play the way he does. The way he flicks and drives on one knee. I relate a lot to him in my batting style.
To me, he was kind of the James Bond of Cricket.
13. Well, a lot about cricket has been discussed. Apart from cricket, what keeps you up and running. Any hobbies or pastimes that you follow?
I love music and play the guitar from time to time. Not as good as I want it to be, but it keeps me busy and is a great escape. I am also a photographer and designer, so I find a lot of joy in doing creative things.
14. Where do you see Namibian Cricket in the next 5 years? Or what is your dream for your team and as an individual Cricketer?
I think any player’s dream is to reach the WC. It’s a very big dream which at the moment is not in our focus. We really first want to get our rankings down and closer to the top teams in the world. For myself, I hope to reach an elite level. Playing amongst the best of the best and just being around people who love the game.
15. Your thoughts on Fairbreak Global tournament that you’re a part of?
I have recently signed with Fairbreak Global to participate in the first-ever Tournament of its kind held early in May 2022. It is already a massive opportunity for me to play at a higher level.
16. In the African continent, one team that you have enjoyed playing with and why?
Zimbabwe. They are our toughest opponents at the moment. We’ve gained a lot of experience playing against them. They are ranked 12th in the world, and them being a neighboring country makes it easy for us to play them frequently. They’ve always played with such good sportsmanship and it’s always been a great tournament whenever they are there.
17. Your thoughts on our platform Female Cricket?
I admire your page, as it really showcases women’s cricket. The media is the new normal and I’m happy there are pages like yours, giving Women’s cricket exposure and other people insight into what’s happening with Women’s Cricket. Thank you!