Baramulla 07 March 2018: Coming from a middle class family of South Kashmir’s Shopian District of Kashmir valley, 25 year old Sumaiya Jan started her cricket from home lawn with a handmade bat and a light weight tennis ball. She remembers as a kid she would go out to play street cricket along with other children in the locality who were mostly boys. “I would get beaten up at home very often for going out with boys and playing a game that my parents considered is not for girls”, says Sumaiya Told Morning Kashmir.
Sumaiya as a kid never knew that cricket is a game that she’ll be making a bright career in but she just used to play cricket like she used to play marbles with other boys in the locality. She said, “I played cricket only because I loved to. I never knew that there is cricket beyond the level I play or there is other side of this beautiful game”.
She still remembers the day that changed everything in her life. It was her first opportunity that made her a cricket player other than a girl who used to play street cricket along with boys just for fun. She said, “It was 2007 and I was in 11th standard and my performance at Sonwar, Srinagar impressed the people around including coach N P Sing”. Sumaiya had scored 47 runs and taken 5 wickets in the match and it was her first school national.
After her registration at Jammu and Kashmir Sports Council in 2008, Sumaiya started her professional cricket career. Sumaiya’s remarkable performance in 2009 when she played under 19 also helped her to gain confidence. She was the only player from Kashmir among two other girls from J&K selected from north zone team in 2011. She has also received best sportsperson award in her district from Governor N N Vohra. Sumaiya has jointly played more than 16 senior-junior nationals that include almost 14 senior nationals.
Before making it to achievements, Sumaiya had to face many obstacles, hurdles and challenges. She always missed support from her relatives and society. “My parents supported me but the response from society stressed them too to an extent that they wanted me to give up my passion”, said Sumaiya. “Many of my relatives used to pretend like they don’t even know me, and few of my cousins won’t even talk to me” She added.
Sumaiya apart from receiving threats in person also has faced questions from elders in the society. People had approached my parents and my brother so many times like playing cricket was a crime, says Sumaiya. “It went to an extent that I had to leave my studies for one year, as I insisted if I give up my game, I give up my education too”, said the 25 year old sportsperson. She added that the reason behind her parent’s decision was they were worried about safety of their daughter.
“When I have to go to play a match, I used to keep my cricket kit bag in my brother’s car the night before so that our neighbors don’t see me with it. Girls playing cricket or any other sports are still not accepted in our society,” said Sumaiya.
She has been contradicting that if it is ok for a girl to go out to a college or university for education, why is it a problem when a girl goes out for playing cricket. She said, “I resumed my studies and did my bachelors in physical education from RTM University Nagpur through distance mode so that I can carry on with my studies and cricket as well.” After completing her bachelors, Sumaiya had her B P ED from Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar and is currently doing a diploma in cricket at National Institute of Sports Patiala. After completing her diploma, Sumaiya is looking forward to become the second women coach from Kashmir so that she can serve the state. Currently Sumaiya’s studies are sponsored by J&K Sports Council.
Sumaiya argues that there is no need to skip your studies if you want to make a career in sports but at the same time complaints the infrastructure facilities in the valley. “There is no lack of talent in Kashmir but at some point what lacks is the infrastructure to which the government and J&K sports council should take a note on”. She says that there should be hostel facilities for the players from different districts if they plan to practice at a common place.
Sumaiya remembers that day when it was her first national tour and she had only Rs 600 in her pocket, and also those nights when she slept on newspaper which she bought for Rs 4, and used her leg guard as a pillow. She still aims at knowing the game of cricket more closely to rectify and overcome her weaknesses.
Apart from facing challenges from the society and family, Sumaiya has struggled personally on giving up even friendship for her passion. She said, “Most hard part of my struggle wasn’t the financial aspect or family issues, but I had to give up my friendship for my passion, just because she couldn’t understand the sportsperson inside me”. She concludes by saying that we cannot correct things what has already happened but we can work to make sure what is happening goes right.