Double game, double delight
Lahore, Pakistan, June 09, 2016 00:00 IST
Updated: May 24, 2017 02:09 IST
TWO GOOD - Diana Baig in action.PHOTOS: AFP
Rarely do we come across youngsters who are good at more than one sport. Pakistan’s Diana Baig is different. She’s proving to be a pro in cricket and football.
Diana Baig shifts restlessly in her seat, checking her watch every few seconds at an awards ceremony after leading her cricket team to victory. Soon she has to play a football match at another venue. Baig is no stranger to the pressure. The talented 20-year-old plays for Pakistan’s national team in both cricket and football, representing the country as one of the “Girls in Green” at the recent World Twenty20 tournament in India in between practising her penalty shoot-out skills.
“It was an honour to be selected for the T20 squad,” she says.
She did not make the starting team, but being at the tournament was “very encouraging for me.” Baig grew up playing street cricket and football with other children in the magnificent Hunza Valley, in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan. The fact that she was a girl did not matter, she says: Baig belongs to the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam, known for its moderate views. That largely freed her from the restrictions placed on other, more conservative women in the Muslim country. From the streets, Baig began playing for local teams, and by 2010 she was leading the newly-formed Gilgit-Baltistan women's team. Two years later, she was selected for Pakistan’s A side, and then as a reserve player for the 2013 World Cup. In 2015, she finally won her first international cap, playing for Pakistan against Bangladesh.
Her journey to the forefront of Pakistani women’s football was even more dramatic. In cricket-obsessed Pakistan, football finds itself largely unable to compete in the popularity stakes.
While playing cricket in Islamabad in 2010, Baig tried out for the Gilgit-Baltistan football team on a whim after friends told her they needed players. She made the team and, to her disbelief, in 2014 was selected to play for Pakistan at the SAFF Championships. She has been a member of the starting 11 as a defender ever since, she says, unable to hide her excitement.
Baig has had to fight harder for her cricket career. Unlike in men’s cricket, Pakistan’s women players are not contracted and are selected on a match by match basis from lower-ranked teams. So there were times when Baig was in — and times when she was out.AFP
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