“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 MacDonald.
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.
Sabalenka to play in Brisbane
Aryna Sabalenka will launch preparations for the defence of her Australian Open crown by playing at the Brisbane International, organisers said on Tuesday.
Elena Rybakina – beaten by Sabalenka in the final in Melbourne at the start of this year – will also play at the December 31-January 7 Brisbane event.
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was already named in the field as she returns to tennis.
“I’m excited about starting my 2024 Australian season in Brisbane,” world number two Sabalenka said in a statement released by organisers.
“Australia holds a special place in my heart after winning my first Grand Slam there.”
Tournament director Cam Pearson said he was looking forward to welcoming the Belarusian Sabalenka and Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, who is fourth in the world.
“We all remember the exciting Australian Open final the girls played at the start of the year,” he told a news conference.
“That has really kicked off what is a pretty exciting rivalry between the two players.”
On the men’s side, fast-rising world number 17 Ben Shelton of the United States will join a draw that also includes three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray.
Pearson said he would welcome Australian Nick Kyrgios to the tournament if he recovers from injury in time.
“We would love to have him here, he’s a past champion and a fan favourite but he needs to do what’s best for him and his recovery,” he said.
“If that means he’s playing in January, fantastic.”
Kyrgios had knee surgery in January and then aborted comeback plans at Wimbledon after tearing a ligament in his wrist.
Giro fail to reclaim top La Liga spot
Surprise package Girona failed to return to the top of La Liga on Monday after they were held 1-1 at home by Athletic Bilbao.
Winger Viktor Tsygankov put the hosts ahead 10 minutes after half time but Inaki Williams scored 12 minutes later to claim a point for the away side.
Girona trail league leaders Real Madrid on goal difference after dropping points for just the third time this season, while Athletic climbed to fifth spot.
Athletic had the better of the first half and their best chance fell to Gorka Guruzeta but the striker poked his shot straight at Girona goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Girona had early chances of their own including an Aleix Garcia volley, which he skied over the crossbar, but did not find the rhythm they have found so often this season.
After the break, the hosts broke the deadlock when Tsygankov rifled home.
Williams, who started on the opposite wing from his brother Nico, equalised from a counter-attacking move that started in Athletic’s own box.
The wide man finished smoothly for his sixth league goal of the season as the Basques went looking for their third straight win.
With 10 minutes left, Inaki Williams came close to finding the winner as he cut in from the left but his shot was parried by Gazzaniga.
Inaki Williams was replaced in the final minute of normal time for youngster Adu Ares, but both sides were forced to settle for a point.
On Sunday, Rodrygo sent Real Madrid top with a double in 3-0 win at Cadiz.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid are four points clear of fourth-placed Barcelona, who drew 1-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
PCB announces Pakistan team management for Australia tour
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have announced the Team Management for the upcoming Test tour to Australia, which is scheduled to take place from December 2023 to January 2024. They will be playing three Test matches in Australia.
Former England cricketer Adam Hollioake has been hired as the batting coach. Hollioake played four Tests and 35 ODIs for England. The 52-year-old transitioned into coaching, contributing his expertise to the England Lions team. His coaching abilities were further recognized when he was enlisted to join England’s coaching staff for the final two Ashes Tests during the 2021-22 series.
Meanwhile, Simon Grant Helmot will serve as the high performance coach on the tour. Helmot is an Australian cricket coach, who was formerly the coach of the Melbourne Renegades in Big Bash League.
Last week, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal were announced as fast-bowling and spin bowling coaches, respectively, for the Pakistan team.
Naveed Akram Cheema (Team manager), Mohammad Hafeez (Director – Pakistan men’s cricket team), Adam Hollioake (batting coach), Simon Grant Helmot (high performance coach), Umar Gul (fast bowling coach), Saeed Ajmal (spin bowling coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Mansoor Rana (assistant team manager), Shahid Aslam (assistant batting coach), Drikus Saaiman (strength and conditioning coach/Trainer), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Talha Ejaz (team analyst), Lt Col (Rtd) Akhtar Hussain (security manager), Raza Rashid Kitchlew (media manager), Ammar Ahsan (videographer), Dr Sohail Saleem (team doctor) and Malang Ali (team masseur).
The Pakistan cricket team will play their first Test match against Australia in Perth from 14 to 18 December, followed by a Test match in Melbourne, from 26 to 30 December. Sydney will host the last game of the tour from 3 to 7 January, 2024.
The squad is set to depart from Lahore on 30 November.
Pakistan squad for Australia Tests: Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi.
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