‘It Will Be The Biggest Regret For Me If I Don’t Play An ODI World Cup’

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‘It Will Be The Biggest Regret For Me If I Don’t Play An ODI World Cup’.

Bangladesh's all-rounder Salma Khatun is one of the first major stars of women's cricket in the country. Salma opted to make a career in cricket when it was not very welcomed in the society. The stubborn cricketer completes a decade in international cricket and she spoke at length with Cricbuzz ahead of the ongoing ICC World Cup Qualifier regarding her cricketing journey.


You have played international cricket for a decade? How do you look back?

We have come this far with a lot of hard work and I have enjoyed the journey thoroughly.

But when you started cricket it must be difficult considering the conservative mindset of our society?

When I started cricket I personally never faced any criticism or had any issues. But everyone was not fortunate like me. Some girls faced criticism considering there were some issues in some sectors. Many started talking things once upon a time due to the lack of exposure of women's cricket in our country. But I always felt that I will wear the national jersey and will play for the nation so it does not matter what people say. If I am good and healthy I will be able to take the country ahead. My goal was to play for the national team and serve the national team and till now I am playing with the same goal. I feel we are now on a good track, no one criticizes women's cricketers rather people now support us.

You are coming from Khulna region and it is known to be the breeding hub for women's cricket. Can you explain the reason?

Not only girls boys are also coming up from Khulna region. I think Khulna's girls are very passionate about sports. Besides Khulna's girls get many facilities including coaching facilities and that's why they are ahead. Credit should also be given to Pinu Sir who always inspired girls to play cricket. He brought girls to play cricket by calling them when he saw any potential in any girl. So this is a big plus for Khulna girls. Pinu sir and late Sheikh Salahuddin Sir took Khulna's cricket a long way and they motivated and inspired the girls to play cricket and probably that is the reason Khulna is producing a good amount of women cricketers. When I just started playing cricket here there were many cricketers came who came from school cricket but I did not come from school cricket because I used to play at home.

So it all began at home?

I used to play cricket with my uncle along with cousins and neighbours in an early age. And I was the only female in my uncle's team in our village located at Milki Deara. From there I started playing cricket. My uncle took me to the playground but my mother disliked it. My uncle convinced my mother. My interest in cricket grew up from there. But I never imagined that there will be women's cricket in Bangladesh and I will play in the Bangladesh team. But I was very happy after hearing that Bangladesh will start women's cricket. That time I was determined to play cricket and my mother along with my uncle also agreed. I went to Khulna Stadium a week after Shuktara, Jahanara, Boishakhi, Soheli started practicing and there was a selection camp for a 10-district tournament in 2007. I used to wear Salwar Kameez while playing at home and never wore trousers. Even when I went to stadium for the first time I wore a Salwar Kameez. There, for the first time I met late coach Salahuddin Sir and he asked me what do I do? I answered I can bowl both spin and pace and I am capable to play batting, bowling and everything. Later I was asked to bowl six pace balls and six spin balls. Later I watched others' practice. After the trial, sir asked me to bowl spin on a regular basis and from there now I am a spin bowler. After the practice, he asked if I had any jersey, trousers or shoes and I said I have nothing. Later he gave them to me from his sports shop. After that, I regularly went to practice and my performance caught many eyes. Everyone was surprised that I played so well as a girl because they had no idea about my capability. All the people in the field highly praised me after watching my game and they used to say Salma showed what a girl can do and that is how it all started.

Your first tour was in Malaysia in 2007?

Yes, our first tour was in Malaysia in 2007. I got a chance and played well. Jafrul Ehsan Sir was our team coach in that tour and he was the first coach after I came to national team. It was a four-nation series in Malaysia and since then BCB wanted to have a women's cricket team and from there we came this far slowly.

It was quite difficult because your parents at that time must be skeptical that a girl will stay outside her home?

I had no experience of staying outside without my parents and when I came to play for Khulna district for the first time my mother cried. I also cried because I never slept a single night without my mother. When I told my mother that we would travel to Malaysia, she was very happy. She came to Dhaka to meet me. She even went to the airport with me. As I was going abroad for the first time my mother went to the airport with me and all of my fellow mates were also happy to see her.

Bangladesh women's cricket got a boost when South Africa toured in 2012…

Of course, the series against South Africa was a benchmark because we had no media coverage till then and even we played for the first time in front of the spectators. It was a three-match series where South Africa won the first match before we leveled the series with a win in the second game. In the third match, Mirpur stadium was overcrowded to watch our game and not a single stand was empty. It was the happiest day of my life. I never saw such fans before. The gallery was filled with crowds just like a boy's cricket game. It was an unforgettable day for me. After the series, BCB changed their mentality and they felt Bangladesh need women's cricket. And since then they started caring for us and now they are caring about us more after we brought a lot of trophies for the nation and clinched the Asia Cup title.

Asia Cup trophy must have a special place in your heart…

I always had a dream that Bangladesh will bring an important trophy under my captaincy. However, my captaincy was removed before Asia Cup. But I never broke down because I always believed opportunity will come and if BCB feels I will regain my captaincy and if it eventually happens I will try to bring a major trophy under my leadership. When BCB handed me the captaincy before Asia Cup at that point I targeted that this is an opportunity to bring a crown for the country with my leadership. And the most memorable day in my life was that day when we clinched the trophy. We had a shaky start in the tournament as we lost in the first game and there were many talking from outside. We had a team discussion after the match and I personally talked one-to-one with everyone and tried to make them understand that this is a big opportunity for us to seal the title. We played together and as a team and that's why we brought success. I cannot express my feelings about how much we were delighted after sealing the Asia Cup title. 16 crore people of Bangladesh were also happy that day.

Beating India was a remarkable feat and that too on two successive occasions…

Obviously and why not? We lost all previous matches against India before Asia Cup and for the first time, we beat them twice in Asia Cup. We won the first-round match with brilliant chasing. It was a very tough day and we were able to bring heavyweight India down. We were confident to win the game and we did it. And the win against India in the first round gave us a huge boost that helped us as a team again in the final. We had nothing to lose but they had many things to lose because they were champions in the last six editions. So we have come up against India with such a confidence level. And defeating India under my leadership is one of my biggest achievements.

Looking back don't you regret that you have not played any ICC World Cup so far?

Of course, I have that regret that we are yet to qualify and now my main focus is ODI World Cup. Not only me but all of us but the most important thing is that we have to overcome the qualifier barrier. As three teams will qualify for the main round in this edition we will try our best to make a maiden appearance in the World Cup. I want to play at least one World Cup. We all will do our best and it will be the biggest regret for me if I don't play an ODI World Cup.

Don't you think you compromised with your batting just to fill the role of an all-rounder?

No compromise at all because the team's requirement comes first. Maybe I bat in down the order but it does not mean I am not batting. As I am an all-rounder I concentrate on both my roles. Maybe I am now an effective bowler for the team and maybe that caught the attention most but I personally want to contribute something for the team with the bat and I made my focus on here as well. Maybe nowadays I have to concentrate more with the ball as per the team's requirement. Actually, my batting position is changed according to the team's plan. Sometimes the team needs me down the order or sometimes they feel I should bat at up the order. So we are playing as per the team's plan. I hope to give my best whenever I will play for the team.

The arrival of Nigar Sultana surely suggests that the board is now looking for the next generation to take over the helm of the team from seniors like you and others…

It was not our decision. The decision comes from the board. She (Joti) showed good captaincy and BCB decided to hand over the captaincy to Joti. I hope she will do well and we will support her. She is new to this role so we need to support her. She is doing well. We will also try to guide her for better captaincy. We just need a proper captain. As we are seniors this is our responsibility to help her and the best thing is that she willingly seeks support from us.

And how are you adjusting to this new role of mentoring the stars of tomorrow?

Not bad actually. I am well aware that everyone will have to say goodbye one day and seniors like us will have to pave way for others. I am actually happy to see them take the center stage and will be more than happy to help them with my experience. I have come a long way and seen a lot, isn't it?

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