I was born in a sporting family filled with professional athletes. My sister is a national handball player for Iran and currently a coach for the Federation of Handball in Iran. And my brother was a footballer. So, it comes as no surprise that I followed in their footsteps, though a totally different sporting landscape. I have been exposed to this environment for as long as I can remember.
I graduated with a Bachelor in Educational Administration in the branch of Psychology at the Shahid Beheshti University, which is one of the best educational institutions in Iran. Following this, I qualified with the Level 3 certification coach. I am an English tutor and work in an educational institution and schools.
It is impossible for a female athlete in Iran to be a full-time athlete.
I started playing the sport of cricket from 2006 and have the honor and privilege to be one of the first women to play cricket in Iran. Initially, I tried my hand at handball (pardon the pun) like my sister and practiced as a kayaker. During the early years, we had a special stadium in Iran that hosts a diverse range of sports. I had the first experience with cricket there. I was provided with great encouragement from the spectators and players after my first bowling experience. It was a completely new sport, but I always had the ability to hit the stumps. I fell in love with it. I realized that I had some talent in this space, especially as a bowler.
I can proudly say that I am the best fast bowler in Iran. The last tournament I participated in; I was named as one of the first five fast bowlers in Asia.
During the early days, we had a Pakistani coach by the name of Shamsha Hashmi. We started practicing with her for the Under 19s national team. I was selected but I could not go and play due to the internal conflict in Thailand.
With cricket in Iran, there are numerous issues. Every cricketer and sportsperson wants to grow and improve and that includes me. I am not satisfied with staying in the position that I am in currently. I want to continually improve my performances. Unfortunately, I have to accept that it is difficult to improve currently playing cricket in Iran. Cricket is an unknown quantity in Iran. In 2013, we participated in an Asian tournament that was held in Chiang Mai, one of the cities of Thailand. We were positioned 6th out of the twelve teams that participated. So, it was incredible what we could achieve without ideal preparation and facilities. About three weeks ago, we had a tournament between the cities in Iran. I would like to see these tournaments being held more than once a year.
There are media broadcasting restrictions especially with women in cricket. Due to Islamic rules and dress regulations, we are not acknowledged by the media. But these restrictions are not limited to cricket only.
Other sports such as women’s volleyball, basketball and handball will not be telecast. Therefore, we do not have support from many sponsors and affiliates. For instance, our women footballers achieved an important milestone by winning the first medal by Iran, but the media did not broadcast their tournament. When it comes to money, facilities or equipment, it generally gets channeled to men’s sports first. We do not have any special tournaments or events in Iran. We only have one chance in a year at a tournament that is hosted by different cities in Iran.
We have more than 12 cities in Iran that play cricket but unfortunately, there is a massive shortage of coaches, facilities and equipment.
You cannot even find cricket balls in our country, This is incredibly sad. We have many talented women in cricket in our country. However, there is no pathway for these women to further their cricket. If enough time is spent to nurture them then I am certain that we can definitely be one of the best teams in Asia and if not, the world.
The lack of well-experienced coaches is very telling. The future of cricket in Iran can be better but will not flourish in the kind of environment we currently have. The International Cricket Council (ICC) could help us by having workshops, providing cricket education, providing cricket pathways and sending experienced coaches to Iran. This can definitely set us in the right direction for improvement. We do not have many turf pitches or standard regulation pitches. We practice on the grass of football stadiums. Obviously, we do not get the same reactions from a grass pitch. The bounce is not the same. The seam movement is different. Practice and training are the most important aspect of improving our cricket. But we do not get this opportunity and our practice environment is completely different from what we expect in the match.
We had Mahmood Rashid Daar who was a Pakistani Coach that was in Iran for five to six years. He visited most of the cities in Iran, coached a lot of players and was one of the best coaches I had the pleasure to work with. He left Iran for some reason that we are unaware of. Therefore, we are now without a coach and apart from the city of Tehran, we do not have scheduled practices either.
With all the challenges facing women’s cricket in Iran, I still believe that we can be the best. For any young and upcoming female cricketers, I believe that nobody can stop you from achieving something except you.
You can do whatever you want. It is about believing in yourself and trying to do your best. We will always face obstacles but if you want to achieve something, then go for it. Do not quit.
We at Female Cricket salute people like Avideh Gilani who despite severe adversities and amidst all the turbulence stand tall and fearless, raise their concerns, believe in a better future and are doing everything possible to turn it into a reality.
Read more such inspiring stories here