AT FIRST glance, Anam Amin can easily pass off as a gawky teenager. The neatly cropped hair and the cherubic face not only adds to her intricate charm, but it in many ways also belies her age. Standing on the lush green turf of Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla, Amin concedes she is living a dream. Beating India in their own backyard at a World T20 encounter is perhaps not the reason why she is finding it difficult to contain her excitement. The sights and sounds of India’s national capital is what seems to have captivated her.
“Since we had an off day yesterday, we went sight-seeing in and around Delhi. First we went to India Gate, then the Humayun’s Tomb and finally Delhi Haat.I loved all the three places, but Delhi Haat is special for shopaholics like me…bahut mazaa aaya,” she says.
It is her maiden trip to India, and Amin is simply revelling it. On the field, the 23-year-old left-arm spinner from Lahore has taken special affinity to the tracks in India, taking five wickets in the two games so far, and walking away with two back-to-back Player-of-the-Match awards. Opening the bowling in both the matches, Amin not only managed to stem the flow of runs, but has invariably given her side early breakthroughs. It is her pin-point accuracy and her amazing energy levels on the field, which has won her several admirers.
Her biggest admirer is none other than her captain Sana Mir. “She has been in terrific form for us and has been giving us crucial wickets upfront.”
Despite the helpful conditions on offer, asking Amin to open the bowling has proved to be Mir’s masterstroke. Amin, however, concedes it is at her behest that Mir asked her to open the bowling. “I told by captain that I wanted to open the bowling…I was confident of my bowling and asked her if I could, to which she immediately agreed.”
Mir and her strike bowler share a great camaraderie, and it was Mir who had first spotted the precocious talent — while playing for an inter-college game in Lahore two years ago.
Mir did not need to play that game. However, with the Pakistan team scheduled to tour Bangladesh in a couple of weeks, Mir wanted to get as much practice as possible. At the nets, she saw a young Amin bowling.
Mir says that the moment she saw her bowling at the nets, she was convinced Amin deserved to be picked in the national team. It was a big call, because back then Amin had not even played an U-19 game. Mir convinced her selectors to draft her in the side, and barely two weeks later she was sitting in the plane that was scheduled to depart to Bangladesh.
Amin did not take much time to hit her straps in international cricket, impressing her seniors with her impeccable work ethics and unbirdled enthusiasm. She went wicketless on her debut— an ODI against Bangladesh at Cox’s Bazar, but she was economical, giving precious little away. This would go on to be her template for the upcoming seasons in international cricket. Much like their male counterparts, the Pakistan women’s team too rarely played at home in the last seasons.
This meant that young Amin would be a globe-trotter criss-crossing countries such as Bangladesh, Australia, the UAE and the Caribbean all in the first 18 months of her career. She is visibly disappointed when asked about the lack of international cricket back home. “Bura lagta hain…lekin kya karoon (It feels bad…but what can be done),” she says.
The left-arm spinner finally got her chance in October last year, when Bangladesh Women’s team came to Karachi to play 2 ODIs and 2 T20s. In the second ODI, Amin weaved a web around the Bangladeshis, finishing with figures of 10-5-7-4. Pakistan would win that game, and Amin who won the Player-of-the-Match award, had slowly but surely announced her arrival on the international stage. After that match, her mighty impressed skipper would tweet Amin’s photo, with the caption: “Anam Amin ; Our little Champ who keeps inspiring us.”
Amin says she was attracted to the game, after watching Daniel Vettori on television. “Bachpan se cricket ka shauk tha…mere bhai aur behen ke saath khetla tha. Par Vettori ko bowl karte dekhkar mujhe laga ki mujhe bhi unki tarah cricket khelna hain.” (I used to play cricket with my siblings. But after seeing Vettori bowl I too wanted to play cricket). It was therefore not surprising when she says that she still has a Daniel Vettori poster pasted somewhere in her room in Lahore.”I have also developed an arm-ball like him,” she adds with a smile.
So how did her parents react when she said she wanted to take up cricket as a profession? “My ammi (mother) detested it. She never encouraged me to play the game… she would say that our society did not allow such things.”
Thankfully for Amin, her father supported her passion to the hilt, and would even follow her to the nets, just to see his daughter bowl.
Amin adds her mother’s perception about the game has changed, more so after she had now become a regular in the national squad. With shopping and sight-seeing done, Amin now has a World T20 game against Bangladesh to look forward to. A win against India was a booster shot, but captain Mir wants a more comprehensive show from her side.
“We are confident after the win against India, but if we want to go deep in the tournament, we need another big win.” For that to happen though, Mir will once again require her front-line spinner to fire up front.