Bismah Maroof in action for Pakistan. ©ICC

I was impressed by the body language and intent of the Pakistani openers after India opted to field first in the second World Twenty20 Group B clash in Guyana on Sunday (November 11). They knew they had to put runs on the board to push a strong Indian batting line-up, and the decision to open the innings with Javeria Khan, the captain, after she had come out at No. 5 in the first match against Australia indicated that Pakistan meant business.

Success for India straight away, a good catch by Veda Krishnamurthy and two run outs, Pakistan were three down early, but the way Javeria took the responsibility of setting the tone of the game was a positive takeaway. Having played with her for long, I know how much she loves to stick to her natural game and bat without any pressure. She has opened in the past but has not had a permanent batting spot in T20Is recently. The way she went about finding early boundaries was a case of selfless leadership.

Anyways, Pakistan’s story from the match was the 93-run stand between Bismah Maroof and Nida Dar after they came together at the score of 30 for 3 in 6.2 overs. Even though Pakistan were under the pump, both Bismah and Nida were in a positive state of mind. There was no option, was there? They had to score runs to give their bowlers a chance.

The stroke-making was excellent and the running was aggressive as they looked to keep the infielders on their toe, but more importantly, both understood their respective responsibilities and went about executing them. Previously, Pakistan have had three bigger partnerships in T20Is but they were against Ireland (123* in July 2013) and Bangladesh (109 in March 2014 and 99* in March 2016). This is now Pakistan’s best partnership after more than two years, and it comes against a strong Indian spin attack on a big stage shows how much progress this team has made.

Bismah was the perceptor of this partnership, as she soaked in the pressure initially. I have had many stands with her in the past, and I have always enjoyed her seriousness and vision while in the middle. She calculates the match situation, understands the situation and then plans accordingly. That makes her one of the best Pakistani batters to have played the game.

Nida, on the other hand, is driven by passion. She is a fighter to the core. She has been closely involved in some of Pakistan’s best moments in world cricket. No situation affects her, and no challenge is big enough for this girl. That fearless approach is what enables her to strike the ball well and go for big shots as she showed against India with her five fours and two sixes. She reached her maiden fifty with a six off D Hemalatha off the 34th ball of her innings, easily the fastest by a Pakistani in T20Is. With lady luck on her side, she was dropped twice in a space of few deliveries, but that’s par for course with any Nida knock.

There was never a moment where she was struggling. She used the sweep shot to good effect, cut well, came down the track comfortably when needed and also played the inside-out shot well (something on which she has been working hard). You could hardly make out that she had a somewhat low scoring series against Australia in Malaysia. Her firebrand approach was directed well by Bismah’s experience. It was a perfect combination.

Both Bismah and Nida have been around for a while now, and they have not only evolved as players but have also helped others grow around them. I have immense respect for Bismah. She is the most hardworking and committed person I have seen, and those attributes reflect in her game. It’s not just about what she does on the field, but even the way she carries herself off the field offers a lot of lessons – always looking to improve and guide others. She had to miss the majority of the 2017 World Cup campaign after hurting a finger, and looked doubtful for the ongoing World T20 because of a sinus surgery. But she was determined to recover on time to make it to the Caribbean.

Bismah is often misunderstood to be a strict and serious person. But very few are aware of the naughty side of her personality. Her wittiness never fails to amaze me. Hiding belongings of other players, planning pranks and not leaving any opportunity to pass a funny comment are her common traits, but once the game face is on she will go any distance to back her players.

Nida, the ‘chucklesome character’ of Pakistan team is the lady Afridi. That is why her wicket-taking celebrations and desire to play the big shots are similar to that of Shahid Afridi. Hailing from Gujranwala – a city famous for its great sense of humour, she does not disappoint. It is quite common for her to imitate other players including members from the men’s national team. Expect her to see the funnier side of things even in the gravest of situations.

Both of us started our respective cricketing careers around the same time, and played for the same University. My heart swells with pride in seeing the way her game and mindset has improved over the years.

The partnership took Pakistan to 133 for 7, but they were penalised ten runs for running on the danger zone of the pitch. I thought the second penalty of five runs was a bit harsh. It made India’s chase little easier, as they started with ten runs already on the board. But the loss should not overshadow the big gain from this game in the form of the Bismah-Nida partnership that took Pakistan to their highest-ever total in a World T20. This stand could be a turning point for Pakistan to do well in the remaining two games.

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