Undoubtedly, cricket is the most loved and followed sport in Bangladesh. People across the country get excited and pumped up to see the likes of Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim in action and to know their stories as it is the men's team that garners most attention. However, in the midst of the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Daily Star has tried to contact women cricketers and bring to light stories of their struggles, hardships or their motivation behind choosing the profession. In today's instalment, we unveil the story of all-rounder Rumana Ahmed, who played 38 ODIs and 65 T20Is since making her debut against Ireland in November 2011.
Rumana Ahmed started her cricketing journey playing in the courtyard at home. Before that she fell in love with the game while watching matches on TV.
"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," Rumana reminisced.
She then asserted that passion was not good enough to become a professional; she instead had to overcome many hurdles because there were very few who looked kindly on girls playing cricket or any other sport in our society.
"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. 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.
"But 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," Rumana recalled.
Rumana however said that Khulna's rich cricket culture and her beloved 'Pilu' sir helped her immensely in realising her dreams.
The all-rounder said that the struggle has not ended yet for women's cricket in the country.
"I think things have changed a little after the women's team clinched the Asia Cup [in 2018]. 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," she added.
Rumana was desperately looking for cricket to resume. "It's so frustrating as we have a lot of matches this year but due to the current situation, everything is uncertain."
She was however happy that the ICC had postponed the Women's World Cup Qualifier 2021, which Sri Lanka were scheduled to host from July 3 to July 19.
"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," Rumana concluded.