Girls Cup: competition, spirit and talent all there at NSK | The Express Tribune

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KARACHI:

“I love playing cricket, I am a master when it comes to bowling,” exclaimed Nadia Athar, who is small in stature for a 13-year-old, but her gumption and spirit make her taller than her peers.

And she loves to bowl and looks up to Shoaib Akhtar as her favourite cricketer.

Nadia is participating in the biggest cricket tournament of her life which was taking place at the National Stadium ground, with her school The Future Academy, even though her team had finished last on their debut in the event.

The event featured four schools including the Future Academy, Nasra School, Ismail Academy, and Alpha School. The Australian High Commissioner Neil Hawkins thanked the players, the officials, and the Australian Over-40 team that is visiting Pakistan to compete at the Over-40 World Cup for being a part of the event.

“The AHC has been sponsoring girls’ cricket since 2016,” said Hawkins in a press statement. “Our countries share a passion for cricket and a key interest of Australia in Pakistan is to support gender equality, so we are very pleased to support this event.”

The one-day tournament was the fourth edition of the Girls Cup Karachi: Empowering Women Through Cricket, held by the Australian High Commission (AHC) in collaboration with Jalaluddin Cricket Academy and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) along with Karachi City Cricket Association.

“This was a great event for us, we had trained our girls, especially for a month, in four sessions at the Jalaluddin Academy, these girls had been introduced to the game for the first tie and I am so proud of them to have taken up to the sport so beautiful,” The Future Academy Principal Hafiz Muhammad Zaid told The Express Tribune as he was surrounded by the team of 15 players.

“We made sure that the girls prepared well, we had them play matches with our boys B team and they really improved quickly. The difference between them and the boys was not so much towards the end. The boys had been supportive too.

“At times it had been a little difficult to convince the families to let them play the sport, because in Korangi, where we have our school the community was a little hesitant, but we made sure that the girls trained separately from the boys, in fact after a while the boys began to complain that we are not focusing on them anymore, but they have been very supportive of the girls as well.”

He explained that children like Nadia have shone through over the period of a month that was spent in preparation.

“Nadia had been a sickly child, but she is very talented, she is very smart,” said Zaid.

While Lubaba and Mariam agreed that the tournament helped them understand the sport better, the ninth graders said that fielding is something they learned more about once they played in a proper tournament.

The safeguarding official and teacher for the last seven years Batool Farooq thanked the Australian High Commission, PCB, and Engro for supporting the team.

Ismail Academy safeguarding official Uzma Waqas was all too familiar with what the girls of the Future Academy were feeling.

Her team won the tournament, defeating Nasra School in the final.

“We won, our girls did it,” Uzma, a teacher with Ismail Academy for the last seven years exclaimed, it was also her second time at the Girls Cup.

“I know what The Future Academy team is feeling, last time we were the debutants and we finished last, but this year we are the champions,” said Uzma.

She added that over a period she had seen the girls from her community in Korangi as well become more confident.

“The girls tend to be a little conscious initially but ultimately, they have taken up sports so well. I have seen many of the girls in my school grow up and I can say that sometimes they feel if they can’t do too well academically, they try to excel at sports, and that is a beautiful thing.

“We do not judge people but at the end of the day it is about the maturity and the mentality of people, we encourage girls to lay, my daughter played last time, but people tend not to like girls in sports and there are societal restrictions, but the truth is that these girls are amazing, I have never held a bat in my life, but when we had the sports day in our school I played a little and it felt good,” said Uzma.

Razia Waseem the mother of Muntaha Waseem was overjoyed when her daughter went up to receive the first prize with her team from His Excellency Hawkins and the legendary Javed Miandad who witnessed the final and distributed prizes at the closing ceremony along with cricket Jalaluddin and other KCCA officials.

“I would stop my daughter from playing because, well she is a girl, but her father always encourages her to play, I am just so happy to see her win and play because she loves it,” said Razia.

The guest of honour Javed Miandad also encouraged parents to let their girls play.

“It is not a difficult thing for the girls to play cricket, everyone in the world is playing cricket now,” Miandad told The Express Tribune exclusively when asked what his impressions of the tournament were and how he saw the growth of cricket among the young girls. “Girls should participate in sports, there is nothing to be embarrassed about in this and this is a healthy activity. There is so much to learn when one goes in the field and plays, just like I experienced personal and professional growth when I travelled the world through sports. Kids should play sports, especially cricket because it teaches them how to strategise, use concentration, and focus, and these skills can benefit them for a lifetime. And now the Pakistan women’s cricket team is doing so well. We are proud of your girls.”

Other players from Alpha School like Dua Ismail and Disha Kumari feel that they can see themselves ick sorts as a career in the future, but at the same time, they want to make sure that they study and get their degrees as a backup.

What was more impressive was the involvement of the Australian over-40 team that joined the layers to encourage them.

The men are here to participate in the Over 40 cricket World Cup that Pakistan is hosting.

One of the cricketers, Tim MacDonald was happy to answer all Dua and Disha’s questions as they marveled at him being a medical doctor and a cricketer as well.

The over-40 team is that of the amateurs who have a background in playing cricket.

MacDonald added that he was happy to be in Pakistan and represent his country at the World Cup.

“It is good to be here. I have played cricket growing up but had to give it up because I had to study and professional responsibilities in life, but I have gotten back to the sport thanks to my son. Now I am playing with the Australian team.

“Someone asked my son if he is missing his father and he said I do but my father is playing for Australia,” said Mac Donald.

Similarly, the captain of the Australian team Justin Poole said that he was happy to be in Pakistan and impressed with the hospitality and he was very happy to see the girls play cricket at the event.

“The enthusiasm is amazing, but some of the girls have got great bowling action there, from the batting perspective it must be very hard hitting those bouncy tennis balls there. I am very impressed with the bowling action,” said Poole.



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