Kashmiri cricketer Jasia Akhtar nurtures big dreams after national camp call-up
Jasia Akhtar will be the first woman cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to make it to the national camp.cricket Updated: Sep 11, 2017 20:56 IST
Living in a two-room house in a village in district Shopian in South Kashmir, the 27-year-old Jasia Akhtar was having a dull Sunday evening until a text message turned it into the happiest day of her life. It was the Punjab captain who informed the attacking J&K batsman that she had been selected for the Indian senior women’s month-long camp at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.
Jasia will be the first woman cricketer from the Valley to make it to the national camp.
“Everyone in the Valley has had a challenging life. It is not possible for Kashmiris to think of building a future in sports, especially women. We are not even sure if we will see the light of next day. Allah gave me a chance to move to Punjab and pursue my dream. I could not even celebrate the news with friends as there is a curfew-like situation in the village as home minister Rajnath Singh is on a visit. Telephone lines and internet are not working since he arrived three days ago,” said an emotional Jasia, who was in Amritsar when floods reduced her four-room house to rubble in 2014.
Her aged father, Gul Mohammed Wani, is a small-time farmer who owns a tiny land where he grows apples and walnuts for a living. With meagre means, the 65-year-old Wani has not been able to reconstruct the four-room house and the family of seven lives in a two-room house.
“The Indian women’s team caught the attention of the nation as well as the Valley with its effort in the World Cup in England. I promised my father that I will work hard on my cricket and don the India team colours. God is taking me closer to my dream. I want to set an example for others and convey to the world that Kashmiris are very talented but we do not get the required infrastructure and encouragement. Punjab Cricket Association changed my life,” said Jasia, who shifted to Amritsar and joined BBK DAV College for Women in order to pursue cricket in 2013.
Known for her strokeplay, Jaisia hogged the limelight in the recently concluded T20 Queens XI Cricket League organised by the Sehwag Cricket Academy in Gurgaon. She scored an unbeaten 44 for LIC Chandigarh XI against Sri Lanka XI in the final and helped her team win the title.
Jasia, who idolises Sachin Tendulkar and Harmanpreet Kaur, has been the top performer for Punjab in ODIs and T20s since 2013. She helped the J&K U-19 team win gold at the National School Games.
“When Pervez Rasool got selected for the India team, we had something to cheer about. There are very few occasions when Kashmiris celebrate. He had told me then, ‘behen abb aapki baari hai” (Sister now it is your turn)’,” said Jasia.
Jasia had a dismal first season with Punjab as the tragedy of the floods and her aunt’s untimely death devastated her. She wanted to leave cricket and help her father in the fields. But her younger brother Sohail Wani Ahmad, who wants to join the Indian Army, convinced her to go back to Punjab.
“My aunt was my mentor. She helped me fight all odds. The losses in the floods shocked her and she died of a heart-stroke at 38. She was proud of me. I hope she is watching me from the sky and feeling proud,” said Jasia, who played for Rupali Bank in the Dhaka Premiere League in Bangladesh a few years back and received flak from the BCCI. That actually prevented her entry into the India team.
“I had no clue that BCCI players are not allowed to take part in such leagues. I was earning a handsome amount. Thankfully, my coach RP Singh helped sort the issue,” said Jasia, who gets reprieves for not attending camps when there is unrest in the Valley and she cannot travel to Punjab.
The month-long camp starts on September 18.