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Cricket news - All 'cool' in Nida Dar's world

"Some of the other girls hide and punch with one-liners. I'm the one who is loud and go on and on with my jokes."

Almost 15 years ago, when she was in her late teens, Nida Dar was selected as the captain of Punjab University. All seemed good then other than the fact that her brother held objections to her pursuing cricket. "He didn't want me to go out and play since everyone around was talking about it. Ek woh bhaiyon waali soch thi uski," she tells Cricbuzz. In order to work a way around this conundrum, she sought permission from her coach to train only during the weekdays, when her brother would travel to Lahore for work. On weekends, when he would return to Gujranwala, she would stay put at home.

The plan was working well, but only till the time she led her team to a victory in an inter-university tournament. "There was a lot of media coverage for that final. Since my brother is an avid news reader and watcher, I was scared that he would know I've been playing cricket all along. I requested the journalists to keep my name under the wraps." They did that but carried a photo of her along with the report. "My brother saw my photo and asked if it was me. I pretended as if it was some other person who resembled me."

However, the secret was not to stay hidden for too long. She kept winning more tournaments and the word spread around. She was even picked for the national trials and later for higher honours. "Even after my name was announced in the final list, I was dejected knowing the situation back home. My father then told him, 'Why are you stopping her? At least give her a chance to see what she can do. Don't become a hindrance in her life.' Even my coach and relatives had to come and convince him to eventually relent."

It must've been a tough toil then, but she laughs at those times now. Today, Nida Dar is 'cool'. Cool Dar is what she calls herself. She likes her collar flipped up, a speed trip on her bike and some Punjabi music to dance to. "Shuru se hi dabang waali approach thi meri," she explains proudly.

When she was even younger, she liked playing cricket with the boys on the streets. "I was the only girl, and the fact that I had short hair and dressed like a boy even then, helped me escape the gaze of the people passing by. Many of them thought that I was a boy and I was happy to let that misconception be."

With no academies around for girls, her early days in cricket were all about learning the tricks on the streets with the tape ball. Her first encounter with the hard ball came when she joined college. "On my selection day itself, I hit six sixes. I was very confident then because I thought girls couldn't play cricket."

The feeling, other than not watching enough girls play the game, also bred as she saw one of her cousins being forced to give up on her cricketing ambitions. "She was a classy player. Her straight drives were like that of Tendulkar," she says driving her own parallel. "But she got married off early. She keeps telling me, if she was not to marry, maybe she too would have played cricket just like me. She always blesses me and tells me to persist with the game since I have gone ahead with it."

Today, other than being Pakistan's most successful T20I bowler and a handy power-hitter, Nida is also the heart of the dressing room, the unapologetic prankster, a no-filter joker in the pack. And thus it is of no surprise that she becomes the point of contact every time a new player has to be welcomed into the team. As her teammate Kainat Imtiaz puts it, "She has something to say all the time, there is not a moment of silence around her. She is just waiting for an opportunity to pick on you. And the manner in which she speaks, in typical Punjabi style, it's very funny."

"It's something that I've picked from my family, we laugh over little things," Nida adds detail to the persona. "I bring the same attitude to the cricket team. Some of the other girls hide and punch with one-liners. I'm the one who is loud and go on and on with my jokes."

But as she becomes the first Pakistani woman to play in an international T20 league - having signed a contract with Sydney Thunder for the upcoming season of the BBL - one thing that still holds her nerves stiff is how is she going to adapt to the new setup. It will be interesting to see how much of her personality is she able to bring out in a completely new setup. The constraints of the language and its suffocating nature are something that some of the Indian cricketers have spoken of after their WBBL campaigns. Nida is aware that could be a challenge for her as well but she is hoping that the cricket can keep her distracted.

"I'm slightly nervous because it is a completely new setup. Apne logon mein bahut aasan hota hai. Maybe, it won't be as simple (to joke the way I do here)," she feels. In order to find familiarity, she hopes to meet the only two people she knows Down Under - Qanita Jalil (former teammate) and Mark Coles (former coach).

"But I don't want to be looking at the negatives. I want to keep my focus on the game and try to perform to the best of my abilities for the team, contribute with both bat and ball. I spoke to Rachel Haynes (Sydney Thunder captain) yesterday and she welcomed me into the team.

"It is a big moment for me. Whenever I used to watch these leagues earlier I always wondered when would we get a chance to play in this. It was very wishful earlier, but now it seems that all the hard work has culminated into this and paid off.

More than just a tournament and a big paycheck, she hopes the time in Australia benefits the national team as well. "This stint also gives me a good opportunity to acclimatize myself with Australian conditions ahead of the T20 WC, so that I can perform better in the World Cup and also pass on that learning to my teammates."

And wishing her luck today are many friends, teammates and family members. On being asked about what her brother thinks of all this now, she laughs and says, "He prays well for me, he is proud of what I've achieved."

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