As women’s sport grows around the world, so does women’s cricket including in places such as Pakistan.
We chatted with Pakistani fast bowler, Aiman Anwar, who was inspired by her idol, the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, along with the persistence of her brother, to take up the sport.
She has represented the Pakistan Women’s Cricket Team in 16 T20Is and 7 ODIs. Aiman grew up in Karachi, Pakistan.
Zushan Hashmi: Tell us a bit about your background and life in Pakistan?
Aiman Anwar: I have been athletic since my childhood. I started playing street cricket at the age of 5 or maybe even earlier. We are three sisters and one brother at home, my brother had always kept me busy playing games be it indoors or outdoors.
It was no surprise then that I grew up playing cricket with him and his friends in streets and grounds. I left street cricket in the 6th grade and looked forward to focussing on my studies. I never thought I would pursue my career as a cricketer.
How did you start playing cricket?
My father is a good friend of the former cricketer, Mr Haris Khan. He stressed to my father that he should send me for trials in the cricket academy if I play well. Mr Umar Rasheed took my trials and believed that I have the potential to progress on the cricketing field.
Unfortunately, I could not join that Academy though. One year into college, I heard about the U19 inter-district trials, where I was able to successfully secure a spot. Although I was late again, Mr Sagheer Abbas allowed me to play.
I had a very good tournament and won the woman of the match in the final. Eventually, I was made the captain of the senior inter-district tournament for my performance and my team won the tournament as well. It was the moment where I decided that I will continue playing cricket professionally.
What was the inspiration behind your decision to start playing the sport?
I started playing cricket for my love for this game. I always admired Imran Khan for his excellence in the game.
Did you start playing cricket with a hard-ball or like most Pakistanis, with a tape ball?
I started off with a tape ball, of course, but when I was 12 years old I stopped playing with it. I made my comeback in cricket with a hard-ball when I was 18 years old.
As a fast bowler, what sort of fitness regiment is required to continue to bowl at your peak?
High endurance and agility are essential for fast bowlers to manage their stability in results. They should be fit enough to deliver the maximum speed possible till the last ball of their spell. Also, fast bowlers suffer far more injuries than spinners or batswomen so they have to be fitter and stronger to prolong their careers.
What has been the highlight of your career?
The historic win against New Zealand for the first time in thirteen years in the UAE in 2018. I managed to restrict them with a bowling spell of 6-13-1
Which form of the game do you most enjoy?
T20s. They are fast!
What is it like playing for the Pakistan women’s cricket team? The culture, environment and camaraderie?
We share a very happy and fun environment and stay strong as a unit. We have massive respect and appreciation for one another and spend quality time together and discuss several things other than cricket over cups of tea. Volleyball is by far, the most enjoyed sport during our team warm-ups. It’s always a pleasure to travel with the team and help them win games
Are you looking forward to playing in the Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia next year?
I really do want to play and urge the team to perform well, but unfortunately, I have been recovering from a hamstring injury over the last seven months.
Women’s sport is growing in popularity around the world, do you think this has improved opportunities for women in cricket in Pakistan?
The growth of women’s cricket around the world is remarkable. The inclusion of women’s cricket in the Commonwealth Games has given us another opportunity to raise the green flag (of Pakistan) with pride. Furthermore, the U19 Women’s World Cup and the U23 Asia Cup are good steps towards the professionalising young female cricketers and developing their skills for International cricket.
Is it difficult for women to play cricket at an amateur/professional level in Pakistan? If so, is this changing?
We have a small pool of girls so it’s easy for outstanding performers to make their mark on the team.
Pakistani batswoman, Muneeba Siddiqui with Aiman Anwar (Source: Aiman Anwar)
Who is your favourite cricket of all time?
Imran Khan and Wasim Akram.
Who is currently your favourite cricketer? Women/men?
James Anderson and Sana Mir.
Lastly, what would you say to young girls in Pakistan who aspire to play cricket for their country?
All the best to them. I hope they work hard and eventually serve the team with dignity and prosperity.