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The girl who survived and thrived | Cricket Bats | Cricket Bat News

On 30 January 1995, a cold winter morning in Bogra, twin babies were born in a private clinic. One of them was still born and the other was in critical condition. The doctor on duty asked the family to pray for the fledgling life and even though most of the family members lost hope as the hours passed, her father Jamil Akhtar did not lose his faith.

The girl who survived has not only repaid her father’s unwavering belief but, in a career that started when she was two months shy of her 17th birthday, has rewarded the nation with cricketing achievements. Those deeds have helped transform a women’s team that was once also fighting for survival into one currently enjoying robust health.

National off-spinner Khadija Tul Kubra played a central hand in the only major trophy won by a Bangladesh cricket team, male or female, when she took seven wickets in six matches in the victorious Women’s T20 Asia Cup campaign in June.

But before cricket, life had been a struggle. Her fight against death in the first hours of her life had left a mark. Khadija has a deformity in her right ear because her still-born twin sister had put pressure on it in their mother’s womb. It was perhaps why she was introverted in school and not attentive in her studies.

But her whole demeanour used to change when she played cricket with her paternal uncles and her brothers in the neighbourhood streets. Her love affair with cricket started at two and a half years of age, but the passion has persisted till today. Khadija’s national teammate Rumana Ahmed talked about how her demeanour changes when she enters a cricket field.

“She plays aggressive cricket all the time. As a bowler, she is always looking for wickets. If she gets a wicket, she fires up the whole team. Her eagerness for cricket has always inspired us. She is always thinking about how the team can improve and how she can perform better in the next match,” said Rumana.

Jamil stoked that early passion by buying her tennis balls and cricket bats.

“Khadija was very upset and depressed in her childhood because she looked different. Her grandfather encouraged her to play cricket and dreamt of the day Khadija would be a big cricketer in the Bangladesh national team. Khadija has fulfilled that dream,” said Jamil.

“My father always tried to understand what was in my mind. He continuously told me ‘don’t be disappointed my dear, you are not an ordinary girl, you are someone special to me’, and these words have inspired me and continue to do so even today,” Khadija said.

Jamil was the single greatest influence in her life and along with Khadija’s grandfather, genuinely wanted her to pursue her dreams. Ironically, the uncles who first ignited the dream with alley games of cricket were the ones who objected most vehemently when she got the opportunity to play at the division level in 2009-10. They asked why she, being a Muslim girl, should play cricket outside of her home.

But Jamil held firm, knowing that only cricket could keep his daughter happy.

In 2009, Khadija started training under Bogra district coach Muslim Uddin at the Shaheed Chandu Stadium. She was a pace bowler, but the coach switched her to off-spin, a fortuitous decision because for much of her career she has been Bangladesh’s best spinner. She played in the Rajshahi Divisional squad the following year and joined Dhaka Abahani at the end of 2010.

She has so far taken 36 wickets from 29 ODIs and 32 wickets in 35 T20Is. She also got the rare honour of being called up by the Women’s Big Bash League team Melbourne Stars in Australia, which had her father in tears of joy when Khadija told him.

Her passion is not limited to just playing the game, but extends to the state of the women’s game in the country.

“When players are in the national team camp, they get some financial support from the BCB [Bangladesh Cricket Board], but it becomes very difficult to continue with cricket for those who are outside the national team.

“In the dressing room before the Asia Cup final match, we made a decision that whatever the result we would dedicate the match to those girls who struggle outside the national team,” Khadija said. “Those who play in the leagues do not get much money. We have already lost many talented girls due to lack of proper opportunities.

“But after winning the Asia Cup, the picture has changed already. Now the BCB has announced lot of facilities for the development of women’s cricket,” said Khadija.

If the women’s game does blossom further in Bangladesh, future generations will be indebted to the passion and perseverance shown by the likes of Khadija.

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