Amidst ongoing hostilities between India and Pakistan at the official levels, members of the Pakistan Women’s National Cricket Team garnered huge support from Indian crowds during their recent World Cup tour. At a fashion show where some film stars were also present, the Pakistan Women’s team got royal treatment, given front row seats as word about their identity spread. But one moment that stands out for captain Sana Mir is when one of the children who escorted the team to the field for the Pakistan-India match, turned to her after the national anthems.
“He said something and I didn’t catch it, so I asked him to repeat what he said,” she recalls, “and he said, ‘Good luck’.”
It really struck the captain that, given all the hyper nationalism and propaganda, an eight-year old Indian boy could transcend narrow-mindedness and wish the rival team – and that too Pakistani – good luck.
These and more nuggets emerged at a meet-and-greet with members of the Pakistan Women’s National Cricket Team last Thursday, April 7, at The Second Floor in Karachi.
Well known singer Zeb Bangash, who wrote and sang a song for the team in 2012, had hosted a celebratory event for the team in Lahore on their return from India. She followed up with this event in Karachi in collaboration with the community organization Girls at Dhabas, but scaled down in deference to the Lahore attack.
Answering a question about being a “fauji ki beti” (armyman’s daughter), Sana Mir remembered her debut match in India in 2005. With Pakistan at 60 for 5, the coach and team players sent her in reminding her that she is a fauji’s daughter – “you can’t lose to India!”
“Growing up in cantonments around the country, there was a lot of fauji-pana (militarism) in me,” she said with a smile, addressing the standing-room only crowd at T2F. But with visits to India and interactions with the people, including the huge amount of love and respect she and her team have got, she found her perceptions changing.
When in 2013 the Pakistan women’s team when to India, they were housed in a different place than the other teams due to threats from the Shiv Sena. “I had said then that my team had come to play cricket, we don’t care where we stay. But what did hurt us was the lack of interaction. When everyone’s staying at the same place, you can exchange experiences, strategies, and build relationships.”
This time, despite the heavy security, she says, they found things different. “The media were well prepared. They asked Intelligent questions that challenged us and kept us on our toes. Most journalists tried to bring out the best in us, but some tried to phansao (trap) us,” said Sana Mir.
What she took away with her out of all these experiences was an eight-year old boy from the ‘enemy’ country who wished her team luck. “That really moved me, and made me think that we should inculcate this sportsman spirit in our (Pakistani) children too.”
Addressing young women and girls in the standing-room-only space at T2F, Sana Mir stressed the importance of family support in getting girls to take up unconventional pathways, although boys also face pressures.
Her strategy for dealing with nasty social media comments — “ban and delete. I am a proud Muslim and a proud Pakistani,” she adds.
Also, where there are trolls, there also those who appreciate the team. “We got unprecedented support from (people on) social media this time. We need to make heroes and cherish and celebrate each other.”
— Beena Sarwar