The people who dream to achieve are dreamers, the ones who dream to inspire, are idols but the ones that dream to become a dream themselves are cricketers!
Cricket sees no religion, no statuses, no barriers, just grit and courage to follow one’s dream. Hailing from the valleys of Jammu and Kashmir, Nadia Chowdhary is the captain of U23 J&K State team and a player born to rule. There were a thousand things like community, society pressure that could have stopped her, but with a willow in her hand and her fingers rolling through the leather ball, there was no stopping her! This All-Rounder is a player to watch out for in the coming years and definitely an idol already.
TEAM FEMALE CRICKET brings to you this super inspiring story through an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
1. Tell us about your family, your childhood days and how cricket entered your life?
Coming from a Muslim community, things were difficult when it came to cricket. I started off playing gully cricket but things were not easy. My parents never stopped me from playing but it was the society that created problems. They always told my parents that she is a girl and she belongs to our community so why do you let her play cricket that too with boys. I was in the 8th grade when my school appointed a few coaches for cricket. The coaches encouraged all the families to let their children take up cricket and so I gave in as well. They saw my batting and bowling and asked me to go and practice at the Parade Women’s college in Jammu. My school was around 30 kilometers away from my home and I had to leave at 6 in the morning for the same. And the practice was around more 15 kilometers from my school.
I used to be out from 6 in the morning to around 10 at night and had to travel to the city area as I come from the village area. So even my dad got really worried because there was a lot of traveling and also it turned really dark by the time I reached home.
But again, my family has always been really supportive. My cricketing career began with the school nationals and later with a considerably good performance in the BCCI U-19. Slowly, I started being recognized through various interviews and articles and gradually people started accepting my game and even appreciating me. My family had to go through a lot initially, the society kept pulling things back, trying to convince my family to not let me play cricket, but my parents always told me to follow my passion and fulfill my dreams.
2. Tell us about the sacrifices and struggles you had to go through along with your family?
If I have to talk about the role played by my family in my career, all I can say is wherever I am today, whatever I have achieved is solely because of my family. Coming from a Muslim community, things were never easy to start with. My family has always guided me through what is right and what is not but has never asked me to stop following my dreams. I have three siblings, two brothers, and one elder sister. My little brother plays cricket as well, not professionally but along with his friends. Even he has been supporting me so well. Whenever we are hanging around or not doing anything he will walk to me and tell me “Aaja bat leke, mai tujhe ball daalta hun aur phir tu bowling karna.”
3. Was being a left-arm spinner always the plan? Or it was a sudden role?
I started off my career as a medium pacer but we already had a left-arm medium-pacer in our senior team. So, my mentor Roopali Slathia told me to try spin because there were not any spinners in our team.
In the year 2015, the senior tournaments were on the cards. And we had one week of camps arranged for training and practice. Roopali di told me that if I am able to learn spin in a week’s time, I will definitely be selected and I decided to go for it! Yes, I transformed my bowling from medium pace to spin in just a week’s time and bowled in the matches. The moment I decided to learn spin, everyone started to doubt me, but only and only my self-confidence got me there, it is such an important element in any career or profession and in anything and everything that you do.
4. In 2016, you received an award and a cash prize from the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, what were emotions back then?
My cousin’s maternal grandfather is a member of the local government here so he had invited our Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti and told her about me. He told that I play cricket and pretty much at a good level and that she has won a gold medal at the Nationals. She was so elated that a girl from our Muslim community was doing so well and she was ready to help and support me with everything I need. She also told me that if you ever have any problems in life, you can always come up and I will be there to help you.
She awarded me a sum of 1 Lac rupees and told me that this will help you in your cricketing career.
5. Considering the political crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, do you think your career would have been different had you hailed from some other state?
I belong to Jammu where the situation is very much normal. Compared to Kashmir, politics is very sound as well. But talking about cricket, our association has done very little to encourage women’s cricket. There are hardly any camps for practice and a very negligible focus on fitness as well. Players from other states like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh get ample opportunities and there is enough scope for them to go on and pursue a career in sports. Here, we have to equally focus on our studies because we do not have any guarantee of whether we will get considerable and fruitful opportunities in sports or not. They have enough time to focus on their sports career and that is the biggest difference between the associations.
The government has allotted equal funds for every state but it’s the state association that does not utilize the funds properly. Our senior T20s are about to begin from mid-October and our camps will be arranged just about 10 days before. I have friends from other states that get at least 3 months of camps before any tournaments. That makes all the difference. Recently, our state was affected by the Pulwama attacks and there was a curfew in the state. We got a call at 11 pm that we have a flight to catch the next day to Tripura and the whole state was under such political imbalance and also there was a lot of security.
Talent is found in every part of the country, it is the facilities that decide the fate. We do not have enough grounds, nets, gyms and a lot of other basic facilities. In fact, we are given with the white and red balls to play with without even considering the conditions or the format of the game that is how casual things are here.
We have camps from 4 pm to 6 pm and in that, we have to work on our fitness as well. The only question is if grounds can be arranged at the last minute for men, why can’t we have basic facilities as well? After all, cricket sees no such differences!
6. Fitness is a very crucial aspect in a sportsperson’s life, what does your fitness routine look like?
Fitness is certainly a very crucial aspect of a sportsperson’s life. In cricket, we have the Yo-Yo Tests that determine the level of fitness. Fitness provides long term stamina and helps one continue playing for hours which is extremely important. In my state, we do not have any fitness or gym trainers appointed. Moreover, we all reside really far so we cannot train together and hence have to focus on our individual routine at all times. My fitness includes training at the gym after college, strides, sprinting, etc.
One thing that is lacking in our state is the importance given to fitness. We must have trainers and a proper fitness schedule as well so that we can improve there as well.
7. What does the domestic structure in Jammu and Kashmir look like?
In Jammu, we have to join various public or private academies and train under the coaches. Many prospectuses are passed in newspapers through BCCI calling for trials under various age groups. There we are trained for 10-12 days in camps by the BCCI. Eight players each from Jammu and Kashmir are selected.
8. What role do domestic leagues like the IPL, KSL play in cricket?
Domestic leagues provide great exposure and abundant opportunities for the young and experienced players as well. They are exposed to international competition and already established players.
We hardly get any matches otherwise. And as many as we do, they are majorly knock out games and hence we do not get ample opportunity to showcase our talent and skills properly. I was on the verge of getting selected for India Red and other such teams, but we were knocked out in the last tournament we played and hence could not make it despite performing well in the matches.
9. With growing competition, what all skills must the players possess to make sure they seal their place in the side?
I believe that the players must focus on their primary skills and stick to the basics and focus on improving them rather than trying much of anything else. My coach Roopali Di asked me to remember my best innings so far 5 minutes before sleeping even if it was from gully cricket and then sleep thinking about it. I ended up dreaming about it all night and woke up at 3 am thinking it is match time! Then she told me that there is still time for the game. The next day I bowled for 7.3 overs, took 6 wickets giving 8 runs!
10. What role does captaincy play in an individual’s life?
I always believe in walking with the team. Captaincy certainly adds to the responsibility and demands better performance from you but it also is about bringing the best out of the team. It teaches you to handle problems better and makes you a team person! I always ask my juniors for advice and all the eleven players, I don’t believe in captain’s ego, cricket is a team game and shall remain so.
11. How do you handle pressure and focus on your goals?
I am an aggressive player and captain personally, so I think pressure brings out the best from me. I choose to relax by taking long and deep breaths, thinking positive all the time and focus on my natural game instead of thinking about the results. It is the process that matters and not the results I believe. If we think positively, the outcomes will be positive as well.
12. Tell us about your favorite cricketing memories so far?
I have two memories that I can never forget in my life. The first one is my six-wicket haul against Goa. And the second is my U-19 match against Haryana. The players were getting out one after another and I was sent in to bat. It was a really tough situation and our manager is Jammu’s DSP and hence the aggressive and strict approach towards everything. Our manager jokingly told me that “Make sure you don’t return soon else I will break your legs” (Laughs).
I played around 30 balls, defending each something which is completely opposite of my natural game. And then our manager screamed from the dugout “Will you even hit anything?” And then my natural game came and I smashed the ball everywhere! When we came out to bowl, I took the wickets of both their openers, we eventually lost that game but it was a very neck to neck game!
13. What all do you wish to focus on improving in the short term?
I get run out very easily! I want to learn to drag the bat instead of making it fly on the crease so I want to focus on that.
14. Had cricket not happened, what else would have worked for you?
I would have become a doctor or a teacher. I also want to apply for the post of sub-inspector after being a cricketer.
15. What does your dream debut look like?
I want to bat alongside Radha Yadav because she is my idol and I want it to be against Australia or England at the Eden Gardens or Rajkot! I am a Kolkata Knight Riders fan and hence the love for Eden Gardens and I have played some of my best games at Rajkot!
I also want to receive my cap from my coach!
16. Who has been your greatest support over the years?
My family, my friends and my school and college teachers have provided so much support over the years. Also, my coaches and mentors Roopali Di, Anju Ma’am, Sanjay Sir, Sunil sir, and Sandhu Sir have always been my backbone and wherever I am today, it is only because of them!
17. Your take on the growth of women’s cricket in the past couple of decades and how does the future look?
Not many knew about girls playing cricket a few years back but today because of the BCCI and the exposure provided by the media, people have started following women’s cricket so passionately and in the coming 5-10 years, it will be even better with tournaments like the women’s IPL. It feels great to see women’s cricket getting its much deserved and due recognition.
18. Whom do you idolize?
I am a huge fan of Radha Yadav and follow her very passionately. We both are really similar as we are both All-Rounders, we are aggressive as well. Recently we were playing a match in which she was a part of the opposition and one of my teammates hit the ball and it hurt her so I scolded her, that she is my favorite why did you do this? (Laughs). Had I not been Muslim, I would have got a tattoo of her name!
19. A few words for the aspiring cricketers?
Nothing in this world can give you what cricket can! Be it the experience, the fame, the lifestyle or the lessons! Never stop following that dream and chase it, No matter what! I also train a girl from my society and I just want her to go out and play someday and that would be my biggest achievement!
20. Have you read about female cricket? Your valuable suggestions would help us work better?
Yes, I have gone through the website and Instagram as well. You support women’s cricket like no other and it is really special.
The 22 Yard stretch that molded me, is what I hold sacred. A cricketer weaving life’s innings into words. A Rohit Sharma Admirer always. I believe writing and cricket aren’t passions, but ways of life, so truly living the dream!