Rumana Ahmed celebrates a wicket. © Getty Images

Like most women cricketers in the sub-continent, Rumana Ahmed, Bangladesh’s allrounder, said she had to endure opposition from all fronts, including from her mother, at the start of her career. Only after her brother and sisters told their mother, she slowly changed her mind.

“Initially it was a very difficult journey. I think everyone loves cricket in our country but when it comes to women’s cricket, not many are there to speak in favour of it,” she told The Daily Star. “I don’t think the scenario has changed much, though women’s cricket has been gradually taking shape in the country.”

“I entered cricket in 2008 and I didn’t get support from home as my mother didn’t like it. But my brother and sisters told me that there was nothing wrong in a girl playing cricket and slowly my mother also changed her mind. Then I got a lot of encouragement from my sir [mentor Imtiaz Hossain], Salma apu [Salma Khatun] and others.”

However, that wasn’t the only territory she had to conquer.

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“I faced a lot of problems from outside that circle. When I went out in jerseys people looked at me as if I was a strange being. Many even chanted slogans against me. People came to our home to convince my mother to stop me from playing. Many teased me on my way to the stadium from my house and that was the reason I started venturing out in casual dresses.”

A tournament win often changes perception towards the team, let alone the players. The T20 Asia Cup win in 2018 was just that, more so after Bangladesh beat India twice in the competition.

“I think things have changed a little after the women’s team clinched the Asia Cup,” said Ahmed, who is Bangladesh leading run-scorer in ODIs.

“Many people now know about women’s cricket but there is a big disparity between men’s and women’s cricket in the country in terms of financial security and facilities. There are hardly any training facilities for women cricketers.”

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Ahmed grew up watching cricket matches on the telly, which shaped her up as a player. “I loved to watch cricket matches on TV and I have actually grown up as a cricketer by watching all those matches. I would watch religiously whenever there was a cricket match on,” said the allrounder, who scored her maiden T20I fifty in 2019 against Pakistan.

Women’s cricket was on a high after the success of the T20 World Cup. However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that all sporting activities came to a standstill. Cricketer tours were called off. The ICC also announced that the Women’s World Cup Qualifier, which was to be played in Sri Lanka in July, has been postponed.

“It’s so frustrating as we have a lot of matches this year but due to the current situation, everything is uncertain,” said Ahmed, who was glad that the qualifier was pushed back.

“At this moment we are not in cricket, so it would not be good for us to play without any preparation. Now, we will get time to prepare ourselves before going into the competition.”