From an outsider's point of view, cricket in Bangladesh may always seem glamorous. It is however not the case always, especially not for women cricketers. Even Salma Khatun, who has been leading the country since 2008, still can only dream about buying a car. Owning a car would probably not be 'a dream' for most male cricketers -- even the ones outside the national team -- but it certainly is for the likes of Salma.
"Many dreams have come true in my life. But I still could not buy a car due to financial limitations. I want to buy a car and drive around with my mother alongside -- that's my dream now. Since I became captain, I have been trying to do something for my family members. My mother faced a lot of hardship. It's time to give her a little comfort. Sometimes it hurts that I am not much educated. That's why I am always trying to encourage kids of my brothers and sisters in their studies," said Salma.
"To be a cricketer, two things are very important for a girl in our country. One is family support and the other is discipline," said Salma. While the former of the two was hard to come by for Salma -- a girl who encountered a lot of hardship in her early days -- the latter was something that the all-rounder was able to achieve through persistence and determination.
Salma comes from a family that had endured extreme poverty for most of their life. And the all-rounder never hesitates in admitting that.
"My father used to do a petty job at the Khulna shipyard. He suffered a stroke in 1992 and was bed-ridden till the day he breathed his last in 2002. We could not afford good treatment for my father. There would also be times when we could not even afford three meals. My mother plunged into debts soon after my father died. And hence, none of my three siblings and I could think about studying further after eighth grade."
"I don't feel ashamed to say that due to extreme poverty none of our four siblings could study after passing eighth grade.
"In 2007, BCB arranged a camp in Dhanmondi to form national women's team and I was selected for the team. Few months later, we went to Malaysia but I felt very bad there as I could not talk to my mother for three days. I had started crying. Later I spoke to my mother with my coach's phone. I had no money and my family was unable to send me money. I had borrowed Tk 5,000 from one of my brothers-in-law and bought luggage and necessary clothes for the tour," she continued to tell her stories of those struggling days.
But despite all odds, Salma kept playing cricket and eventually became a part of the first batch of women cricketers in the country. Salma probably had the captain-like characteristics instilled in her since her early cricketing days as she was referred to as 'captain' by the local boys who she grew up playing with.
However, she still was petrified the day she was introduced to the world as the captain of the Bangladesh team.
"In 2008, Jafrul Eshan sir took me to BCB and I was announced as the captain all of a sudden. I was terrified as I was not that educated and also the fact that I had never faced journalists," recalled Salma.
After being announced as the captain, it became clear for Salma what she wanted.
"Since that day, a kind of stubbornness gripped me. I felt I have to play well. I remembered about all the struggles my family and my mother went through and I realised I had to play well to help my family recover from that position," said Salma.
The 29-year-old did justice to the promise she made to herself since day one of her captaincy. It was under her leadership that Bangladesh won the Asia Cup in 2018 -- the first major cricketing trophy won by the country. And Salma too acknowledges it as her 'greatest achievement' till date.