I will always play for my team and for my nation: Jahanara Alam

Akash Ghosh
16 Feb 2022
I will always play for my team and for my nation: Jahanara Alam

Jahanara Alam © Getty Images

From not having ODI status until 2011, the Bangladesh women’s team has come a long way. In 2022, they will be taking part in their first 50 over World Cup. During this historic event, Bangladesh’s pace-bowling unit will be spearheaded by Jahanara Alam. The 28-year-old from Khulna is not just another athlete but also the flag bearer of Bangladesh women's cricket. 

Recently, Women’s CricZone sat down for a chat with Alam and talked about the World Cup, the growth of cricket in Bangladesh, her aspirations moving ahead and much more. 

Q. You have been the posterwoman of the Bangladesh cricket team for quite some time now. How does it feel that you are also part of the team which will play the country's maiden 50 over World Cup?

First of all, I feel proud and I feel lucky. I feel thrilled. As this World Cup has been a dream for me for a long time, I can’t express how happy I feel. 

Q. You made your debut a decade ago for Bangladesh. How would you describe the changes that have happened in the last decade as someone who has observed women’s cricket closely?

Well, officially according to the ICC, I made my debut in 2011 for Bangladesh. Before that, I had actually played for my nation from 2008. So, it has already been 14 years. What I have seen is changes at the grassroots level. A lot has changed from the top till the bottom levels of the game. Financially as well as facility wise. Also, I have to mention the player pipeline. When I started in 2007, we were only 150 to 180 girls who started together. Now, across the country, we have 600 or 700 players in our pipeline. Back in the day, we had only one or two tournaments. Now, we have lots of tournaments, we have the Dhaka Premier League, we have first division cricket, second division cricket, we have got U-19 and U-17. So there is a lot more cricket being played at different levels. 

Apart from that, financially if I had to speak, during 2008, only three players were centrally contracted by Bangladesh Cricket Board and the salary was less than 100 dollars per month. But, now we have 22 players centrally contracted and the salary is more than 700 dollars per month. So, it is increasing day by day. Back in the day, facilities were a little different. Grounds, clothing, practice facilities and accommodation were different. With time, it has changed and it is a huge change. The main thing is people around the globe now know that we have a Bangladesh women’s team and we have made our identity. Though we have been a cricket-crazy nation, parents didn’t send their children to play. But, after we won the Asia Cup in 2018, parents have been sending their daughters to play cricket. 

Q. The joy of qualifying to the World Cup was immense obviously. We saw a video which was doing rounds on the internet. Describe that moment for us and how the mood was in the camp. How did you guys celebrate that night?

We just got the news suddenly. Because of the COVID situation, the tournament was called off. Before we were going to have our lunch, the news came and we just couldn’t believe it. We started shouting, everyone came down to the corridor and we just started shouting. Suddenly, I thought I could make a video. We hugged each other and we started crying and just thought that we made it to our dream World Cup, we will fly to New Zealand. And, we thought this will have a huge impact on women’s cricket in Bangladesh. 

ALSO READ: Jahanara Alam named in Bangladesh's World Cup squad

You know, after that, we had a normal lunch. Once we were done with that, we went back to our rooms. Before we entered our room, we had a small swimming pool there. In the 10 to 15 days we were there, we didn’t even enter the swimming pool once. But, that day, we grabbed each other and threw each other in the pool. We all jumped into the pool altogether and enjoyed that moment in a different way. Some of the players hung me in the air and then threw me into the pool. So, at that moment, I understood that this is the feeling of qualifying to the World Cup, this is the joy. It was a different experience and we all celebrated together. 

Q. Some people have said this current Bangladesh team is the best team which has come to the forefront. Would you agree to this and if so, what do you think has changed and what have you been doing well? 

Well, I agree with that. In the recent past, we have done really well as a team. Five to six years ago, we didn’t have an identity which made us believe we can achieve big things. So, we won the Asia Cup in 2018, we changed people’s mindset. We made the change and made everyone believe that we can do something big as a team. This qualification for the World Cup is another huge step for Bangladesh women’s cricket. If we move together, we believe we can do something different. 

Q. Are there any specific plans which you guys have laid down for the World Cup? Is there any specific role which has been assigned to you? Apart from that, how do you see yourself mingling with the team as a senior player and also assisting Nigar Sultana? 

Look, this is the first World Cup which we are going to play. And we didn’t have any experience and we didn’t have any opportunity to play against Australia, New Zealand and England in any ODI matches yet. So, we are looking at this as a big opportunity for us. For me, being a senior player, I have some experience. We have some junior players in the squad and I hope I can share my experiences with them. I have got a chance to play in a franchise league, where I played against some New Zealand players and some England players. So, I know them a bit, how their thought process works and how they plan about things. Those things I can share with my teammates. Especially talking about me, I want to always perform for the team and contribute to my team and I will try to do that 100% for sure. 

Q. There has been some back and forth between you and the board. We have heard everything has been resolved which is a good thing for the team moving forward. Heading into such a big tournament, does that add extra baggage to your mind?

There is no extra baggage in my mind or on my shoulder. I am not carrying those. There is one word, ‘professionalism.’ I am 100% professional. Also, I will always play for my team and for my nation. And, for me, my team always comes first. 

Q. On that same note, how is the team gelling ahead of the World Cup. Is there a conscious effort from your end to ensure that the pressure doesn’t fall on the team? Especially, because you are a senior member. 

The first thing is that there is no pressure on me or my team as well. Together we have a good enough experience. There are some players in the team who have experience of 14 or 15 years as well. As a team, some of the core members have got a lot of international experience. There are a bunch of newcomers as well. Together, we have a team with complete unity. The team is gelling well, we are not compromising with anything or with each other. We will go into the World Cup with our unity. And we will definitely fight as a team and we will move forward as a team. 

Q. What is the aspiration for the Bangladesh team heading into this World Cup? Was there a goal which had been discussed before leaving for New Zealand? 

Though this is our first 50 overs World Cup, we have already played four T20 World Cups already. It has already been 14 or 15 years since we have been playing international cricket. Yes, there is a goal, firstly, we want to learn something from the tournament. This is the biggest stage. And, apart from us, all the seven teams are in a battle. They will fight each other for the World Cup trophy. To be honest, we are not going for the trophy, but we'll atleast fight to win one or two matches. Even if it is one win, it will be huge for our nation and the Bangladesh women’s team. 


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