Sana Mir received a thunderous applause as she walked in to the post-match press conference after her side beat Bangladesh Women in Delhi. She first allowed Sidra Ameen, who crafted a match-winning unbeaten 53, to soak in the applause and take her seat, before she followed. The big grin on Mir’s face told you a story of a captain, who in her last assignment at the helm, was close to achieving an important milestone in Pakistan women’s cricket history. The nine-wicket win over Bangladesh keeps Pakistan Women in contention for a place in the semi-finals of the World T20.
Ameen, however, seemed more overawed facing questions, than she did while batting at the crease, especially unfurling those fierce cut shots to raze down a potentially tricky target of 114. “My captain has backed me, she showed faith in me,” she said, before breaking into a sheepish smile. “Momentum” and “confidence” were the buzzwords, her excitement clearly knowing no bounds, after her first half-century in international cricket.
Until the 2012 Women’s World T20, Pakistan hadn’t won a single match in the tournament. Four years later, there scales have turned, and how. With wins over India and Bangladesh, their confidence and net run-rate, too, has taken received a massive fillip. Previous Pakistan teams would have looked at an upcoming clash against England Women as another step towards improving against a top side, but not this team.
“We are not afraid of any team,” Mir declared authoritatively. “We have shown how much we have improved as a side. Cricket is played out on the field and not on paper. So we don’t believe they are favourites. The way we have played as a team in this tournament, I would say we have an equal chance. A lot of people would have written us off, but it doesn’t matter who we are playing. That is the positive attitude we will take into the next game.”
Mir wasn’t being over-confident. The brutal honesty has stemmed from the performance of her bowling group that has adapted itself superbly. Anam Amin, the left-arm spinner may have well won her third successive Player-of-the-Match award for a haul of 2 for 12, had it not been for the ease with which Ameen began a potentially tricky chase on a pitch that slowed down as the evening progressed.
“Our bowling has been outstanding throughout the tournament, credit to Anam Amin and Asmavia Iqbal,” Mir said. “To restrict West Indies to a little over 100 and India to below that was a special effort. That has injected tremendous confidence. Also, our openers didn’t start well in the first game, but there has been remarkable improvement in the next two games. The momentum is with us going into the game against England. We could have had a better result in one game (they lost to West Indies by four runs), but can’t ask for more from the girls.”
Mir did not miss another opportunity to acknowledge the support of a festive Holi crowd. The official attendance was pegged at 1026. “Pakistan jeetega” [Pakistan will win] chants were ringing loud as their flag fluttered. “It is wonderful to be in a country where people are chanting for you, it’s welcoming,” Mir said. We are enjoying the support. Hopefully we can continue to impress them with the way we play.”
And what about the reception from back home? “Oh, the kind of support we have got from back home this time, I don’t think we’ve ever got that,” she smiled. “The kind of messages we have received from back home has been extremely encouraging. We just want to continue this going forward. The girls are enjoying this. But our prayers are with the men’s team as well. I hope they also give the fans reasons to smile.”