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March 10, 2017

Women making Pakistan proud courtesy baseball

The Express Tribune March 8, 2017

BREAKING STEREOTYPES: Madiha and Ayesha left cricket to try their hand at baseball, a move which people feared would not work for them but it did. PHOTO COURTESY: PAKISTAN FEDERATION BASEBALL

KARACHI: It may not be common knowledge but Pakistan women’s baseball team is ranked sixth in Asia out of 15 very competitive countries.

Taking this fact into account, cricketers-turned-baseball players Madiha Ayub and Ayesha Ejaz feel that their decision to switch to the other bat-and-ball sport in a cricket-crazy country proved to be a smart one.

They were advised to not take up baseball, but they took their chances and in the end defied the tall odds stacked against them — something which right fielder and main-hitter Madiha feels more women ought to do in the country.

Pakistan women’s team made their debut at the World Championship in South Korea last year and Madiha’s moment of glory came against the hosts when she became the first Pakistani woman to register an international catch.

On the International Women’s Day, Madiha — a master’s student at Imperial University — has given the message to strive hard. “In Pakistan, people don’t really give much credit to women, whether it is sports or otherwise,” Madiha told The Express Tribune. “I can tell you that my family didn’t support me when I chose to pursue a career in sports; it was just my sister who encouraged so I carried on and I still remember the moment when I first saw my catch on YouTube. It was a rush.”

Madiha, who began playing baseball four years ago, says there is fierce competition at the trials in baseball.  “With cricket the problem is that one needs to perform and then they need to have a strong sifarish (intercession) to get into the national team too. But, in baseball, it is all about merit,” explained the Higher Education Commission hitter.

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Meanwhile, 20-year-old Ayesha feels that she identifies herself more as a baseball player now, a short stopper than a spinner or an all-rounder in cricket. The Sargodha-based player said that baseball revitalised her passion for sports.

“Odds are there; we would hear people question our choice but we trained well before the world cup too. A Taiwanese women’s coach trained us for three months and most of us know about the baseball techniques now. In fact, we only play cricket now to make sure we stay in the rhythm for baseball,” said Ayesha.

While Pakistan Federation Baseball executive director and coach Fakhar Ali Shah said women have potential and the long-term goal is to take the team to more international events.

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“A good number of girls are getting scholarships on their baseball talent in universities like Imperial University, Punjab, Lahore, Sargodha Universities; HEC is doing a good job with it. Now our aim is to take them to the top of the international circuit and they are working on it,” concluded Shah. “Women, in fact, work harder than boys because they have so much to prove.”