Karachi: In the conservative Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province of Pakistan, young women are expected to settle down to married life and raising a family.
Sana Mir, captain of the Pakistan women’s cricket team that won a gold medal at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, had other ideas.
“I belong to Abbotabad where girls are not encouraged to take up sports leave alone cricket but my family was supportive and made it possible for me to play cricket and study as well,” Mir told reporters after a triumphant return home on Sunday.
“I hope our victory will serve as a catalyst for women’s sports in Pakistan.”
The women’s team, wearing their green team blazers, were garlanded and showered with rose petals in a rousing welcome at Karachi airport after winning the gold medal in a one-sided final against Bangladesh on Saturday.
“This welcome is like icing on the cake after our victory,” Mir said.
Pakistani media greeted the gold medal as a victory for women in the country.
“Looking for positive faces to show the world, Pakistan need go no further than its sportswomen,” the Dawn English daily newspaper said in an editorial.
“Despite the many restrictions they face, Pakistani women have done well in the field of sports from time to time.”
“Unfortunately too little has been done to encourage these brave young women,” the News daily paper said.
“We never dreamt one day women’s cricket would be acknowledged this way,” said Mir. “The day we won the medal I called up my family to thank them for their support.”
In a country where cricket remains a passion despite the spot-fixing allegations surrounding the men’s team, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has been giving steady exposure to the women’s team.
“The fact that we have played regularly since last year in International Cricket Council (ICC) tournaments and against better opposition has helped these girls gain confidence,” said Bushra Aitzaz who heads the women’s wing in the PCB.