The World Cup beckons

It’s still hard to believe that we’re going to be on the plane to Australia for the Women’s World Cup next year.It was a World Cup win for Pakistan’s men team in Australia back in 1992 that inspired me to take up the game, so to think that I am going to follow in the footsteps of some of my cricketing heroes is amazing.

I don’t think anybody in my family would have thought that when I first picked up a cricket bat aged six-and-a-half and played against my brothers and cousins in the backyard that I would go onto lead my country in the sport. After yesterday’s result, when we beat Netherlands by 94 runs, even Dad might forgive me for all the plants we used to destroy in those backyard games. I don’t think there could have been prouder parents in Pakistan last night.

I tried to treat the semi-final against the Netherlands in the same way as I would any other match. After waking up and getting some breakfast, I finished praying and then did some visualization work to help me with my batting and bowling.

The ground is about half an hour by bus from the team hotel, which gives you plenty of time for mental preparation. We share a bus with the opposition on our way to matches at this event and they normally play their music as well, which keeps everybody’s mood upbeat as it is always interesting to hear what music other girls around the world like to listen to.

There were some girls who were pretty jittery, but I just try and relax and reassure the girls – that is the captain’s job.

Although we didn’t get as many runs as we would have liked, we have such a great bowling attack and I was never really worried that we weren’t going to win the game.

The Netherlands squad were really great to us after the game and even though they were so disappointed, they even joined in some of our celebrations on the bus on the way back to the hotel.

Helmien Rambaldo, who captains their team, even lent her music player to us for our party last night which shows what great spirit there is amongst the players within the women’s game.

Hopefully our victory will lead to some important changes within the sport in Pakistan. Not a lot of people were expecting us to qualify, so it is so exciting to have qualified with so many comprehensive victories this week.

Growing up, we’ve always looked up to other players and it would be nice to think that girls in Pakistan will now be able to look up to us.

I was very lucky that I had the opportunity to play lots of sports, I’m a black belt in karate, I swam for the national team until I was 16 and I enjoy playing golf and tennis as well, but lots of people never have had the chance to play cricket.

Hopefully our win will help improve the domestic structure of the women’s game in Pakistan, creating more leagues across the country, so the participation base can grow and grow. It would be nice to think we might be able to get some of our matches on television as well.

It really was an amazing day on Friday and I still keep thinking back to the final ball of the match when we finally knew that we had won the match. I was so excited I ran straight for the stumps and took them out of the ground, although the umpires made me give them back after the game.

I may have had to give up the stumps, but I am so proud of the fact that nobody will ever be able to take away from me the fact I have led my country to qualification to the Women’s World Cup. If only we can repeat the achievements of our countrymen in 1992 when we play in next year’s event.

But first we have to play South Africa in Sunday’s final and it would be nice to get into habit of winning some silverware then. I already can’t wait to celebrate our World Cup qualification with all my friends and family back in Pakistan – to come back with a trophy as well would be the most incredible feeling ever.

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