Bangladesh, for the first time, has qualified for the ICC Women’s World Cup that will be played in New Zealand from March 4 to April 3 this year. The captain of Bangladesh, Nigar Sultana, has played a pivotal part in Bangladesh’s qualification for the marquee tournament. In an exclusive chat with Shaniz Chowdhury of The Daily Star, Bangladesh’s captain talks about her cricketing journey from being a player to the captain of the national side.
Sultana was first introduced to cricket when she was just two years old. Her brothers and cousins played the sport in the backyard and she grew up watching them play.
In the interview, she said, “I always had a penchant for cricket and knew that it is what I wanted to pursue professionally when I grew up.”
As a few years rolled by, Sultana started accompanying her elder brother to the cricket club and that was the beginning of her professional career. In 2011, she came to Dhaka to give the trials for BKSP, however, she did not make it in the first year. That did not deter her from trying, rather, that made her stronger. For the next four years, that is between 2011 and 2015, she showcased her cricketing prowess at the club level, and finally, in 2015, she received a call for Bangladesh.
Sultana made her international debut against Pakistan on September 30, 2015 in a T20I. A week later, she made her ODI debut also against the same opposition.
Sultana recalled, “Everyone used to tell my brother that someday, I will be a cricketer in the national team. He always encouraged me to walk on this path because he saw the potential in me. He used to show me pictures of Salma, Rumana, and Jahanara Alam. Salma Khatun’s name is synonymous with Bangladesh’s women’s cricket. She is my idol, and I am so proud to be representing the team like she did.”
Despite the burning desire to do well in the sport, the society in which Sultana grew was conservative and judgmental. She was blessed with a supportive family, however, her relatives were not too fond of her cricket dream. Rather they wanted her to concentrate on her studies, which she was good at.
Sultana shared, “My mother is the reason I never gave up, despite all the hardships. She never discouraged me from playing what other people called ‘men’s sports’. Instead of paying heed to what other people said, she taught me to be tough, physically and mentally. She told me to kick my fears to the curb and pursue my dream. She would accompany me to practice sessions, wait for me, and then, we would go home together. Without her love and support, I would not have made it this far.”
Just like her mother, Sultana’s father has also played an important role in making her the cricketer that she is today. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when outdoor cricket practice was not possible, her father, used his fishing net to create an enclosed setting that would allow Sultana to practice her batting. Apart from being a wonderful player, Sultana is slowly and steadily shouldering the captaincy responsibilities. Despite a few senior players being around, she was assigned the role of a captain in 2021. So far, she has led the side in two ODIs and four T20Is. At present, Bangladesh is ranked five in ODIs and nine in T20Is. She wants Bangladesh to climb up the ranking ladder under her leadership.
The 2022 ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup will be Bangladesh’s first World Cup and the team will certainly look to make the most of it. The captain mentioned, “We were determined to qualify for this year’s world cup. We practiced one-on-one and played so many matches that we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses like the backs of our hands. We arrived at Harare two weeks earlier to get accustomed to the weather.”
The Bangladesh women’s cricket team enjoyed some success in 2016 and 2017. They also won the Women’s T20 Asia Cup in 2018 by beating India. The captain of Bangladesh, Nigar Sultana believes in her team and feels that they have the ability to put up a strong fight against quality oppositions.
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