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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Pakistan’s women’s T20 star wants more cricket with India

After her initial days playing the game with her brothers in Gujranwala, Nida Dar moved to Lahore for better cricket opportunities.

cricket Updated: Jun 15, 2019 22:55 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
File image of Pakistan cricketer Nida Dar in action during a match.
File image of Pakistan cricketer Nida Dar in action during a match.(IDI via Getty Images)

When Shahid Afridi was smashing bowlers all around the world for Pakistan, a young fan in Gujranwala (Pakistan Punjab) was trying to emulate her hero, preparing to be the ‘Lady-Lala Boom Boom’. Fighting the challenges of growing up in a conservative society, Nida Dar went on to make her T20 and ODI debut for the Pakistan women’s team in 2010. She is now the most talked about T20 all-rounder in women’s cricket due to her aggressive batting and useful off-spin.

Dar, 32, is the daughter of former first-class cricketer Khawaja Rashid Hassan, who played for Kotli, a town in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. She grabbed headlines a few weeks ago after smashing a 20-ball fifty for Pakistan against hosts South Africa in the fourth T20 at Willowmoore Park, Benoni. The all-rounder ended with 75 off 37 balls, the highest T20I score by a Pakistani woman.

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The Saudi-born Dar, who lives in Lahore, says, “I just enjoyed going after the bowlers. Be it batting, bowling or fielding, I want to be aggressive and just go for the kill. That is how I used to play with my two brothers in our neighbourhood. That style has not faded. I am a Punjabi and like to wear my heart on the sleeve,” she says.

She completed 1000 T20 runs during that innings, the third Pakistan batsman to reach the landmark, also achieving the fastest fifty by an Asian player. The record for the fastest fifty in women’s cricket is held by New Zealand’s Sophie Devine, who hit 50 off 18 balls against India in 2015. Pakistan’s previous highest T20I score was Javeria Khan’s 74 not out against Ireland.

“It was not easy to hold on to a cricket career while growing up in Gujranwala. I was told to choose some other field, but my heart was always in cricket. I did well for Punjab University and was picked for Pakistan. Afridi is my role model. I get nervous whenever I bump into him. When people call me Lady-Lala Boom Boom, I not only feel proud, but take it as a responsibility,” says Dar, who plays for ZTBL Zarai Taraqiati Bank in Pakistan domestic cricket. Dar has been compared to Afridi not only for her hitting abilities in the middle-order but also because she copies Afridi’s famous ‘starfish’ celebration after taking a wicket.

After her initial days playing the game with her brothers in Gujranwala, Dar moved to Lahore for better cricket opportunities. A fan of Punjabi rapper Honey Singh, Dar, who has played 71 ODIs and 96 T20s, wants to travel to India for a series.

“It is always wonderful to play against India, with full on energy. I am good friends with Mithali Raj and Ekta Bisht. Harmanpreet Kaur is a brilliant striker of the ball. The Boards of both countries should plan a series soon in Pakistan as well as in India. Playing good sides will help raise our game. We need to prepare for the T20 World Cup (in Australia next February),” says Dar, who loves the aggressive brand of cricket played by the Australian women’s team. Pakistan made their ODI debut rather late in 1997, and later that year played in the World Cup held in India.

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“Last time we travelled to India was back in 2016 T20 World Cup and we beat them in Delhi. Bilateral cricket should resume between the two nations. Hopefully, things will work out and we will playing a top team like India at their home. It was amazing to see T20 challenge league matches on the lines of IPL for women in India,” says Dar. The BCCI has sought permission from the government to host the Pakistan women’s team for a one-day international series this year as a part of International Cricket Council’s Women’s Championship, which will determine qualification for the Women’s World Cup in 2021.

Dar, who has a strike-rate of 96.27 in T20 cricket, backs Pakistan to do well in the ongoing World Cup in the UK. Pakistan are very balanced and can bring glory to the nation, like Imran Khan’s Pakistan team did in the 1992 World Cup, she says. “Pakistan need to target (improving) their bowling. The batting is very good, and as the tournament progresses, Pakistan will find form and get used to the conditions. Remember, all had written off Pakistan in the (2017) Champions Trophy, but we won the title. Inshallah, they will do it this time too.”

First Published: Jun 15, 2019 22:55 IST

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