Cricket is undoubtedly the most beloved and followed sport in Bangladesh. People across the country get excited just to see the likes of Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim in action and to know their stories. It is the men's team that is often highlighted but during this nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Daily Star tried to contact women cricketers and shed light on their struggles and hardships and to ask why they chose the profession. In today's entry, we unveil the story of opening batter Sharmin Sultana, who made her debut in a win against South Africa at home in 2017.
The backstory of most athletes usually entails the struggles and hardships they faced before realising their dreams. Even most of the players who made it to the Bangladesh women's national squads had either to fight against their families' will or against the taunts from a male-dominated society -- sometimes they both.
However, Sharmin Sultana, who played 13 ODIs for Bangladesh since her debut in 2017, considers herself to be one of the luckiest players as she had the support of her family and everyone around her.
"I am probably the luckiest among [women] cricketers as I did not face any obstacles when I chose cricket as a career. My family members, relatives and even my neighbours supported me," said Sharmin.
It is quite usual in Bangladesh that when growing up with a male sibling, the female is often at a disadvantage, but it was very different for Sharmin, who grew up with her elder brother Rashedul Islam in Bogura.
"My family supported me the most in my decision to play professional cricket. There was no discrimination between us siblings," said Sharmin.
Her brother Rashedul too had similar things to say. "There was no difference between Sharmin and I. If I got a shirt, they would get her one too. If they bought a bat for me, then Sharmin too would get one. There was a sense of building up her confidence as she grew," said Rashedul, an immensely proud older brother who makes it a point to remind everyone that his sibling is a national cricketer.
In Bangladesh and throughout the subcontinent, people will be hard pressed to find female children playing sports -- an activity usually reserved for the boys. But not this one. She has a history of playing around the neighbourhood and in different localities ever since she was a kid.
Just after her SSC exams in 2010, Sharmin saw an ad in a newspaper saying there was a club tournament in Dhaka. "Ritu [Moni] Apu from Bogura was playing for Azad Sporting Club in the tournament and to say the truth, I did not know back then that girls in Bangladesh could play cricket [professionally]."
Sharmin immediately told her parents and brother that she also wanted to play cricket for her nation and her family agreed and helped her in every way possible.