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Sana Mir: Pakistan's beacon of light as they emerge from the shadows

Imran Khan and Sana Mir are like chalk and cheese, expect when they aren't.

FEATURED WRITER
Feature 06 Jul 2017, 21:43 IST
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Pakistan’s women’s side have come a long way under Mir, drawing parallels with another legendary former skipper

Life is a delicate collection of interconnected threads that are often inconspicuous yet still make enough impact to make you question it. On the face of it, not many things connect Pakistan women's captain Sana Mir and legendary Pakistan skipper Imran Khan. As in life, not everything is clear-cut and laid out for all to see.

With his devilishly good looks, incredible run-up that everyone wanted to emulate and captaincy that reached its zenith during the 1992 World Cup, still Pakistan's only World Cup title (men's or women's), Imran Khan was what every kid wanted to be when they grew up.

Outside of the cricketing circles, Sana Mir is relatively unknown. There aren't posters of Mir on the walls of kids in Abbottabad or Lahore. Kids don't scream her name like they used to with Imran and every time she has the ball at her hand, or comes out to bat, the nation doesn't collectively hold their breath.

Imran is undoubtedly the greatest cricketer that Pakistan have produced and arguably the greatest all-rounder the game has ever seen and his captaincy skills that ensured a mediocre side claimed cricket's greatest prize is the stuff of legends.

Although Mir is on the verge of completing her 100th ODI, she is yet to reach the dizzying heights that Imran did. While Imran was one of the best that the game that has ever seen, Mir isn't even the No.1 spinner in the side and her batting, while adequate, isn't good enough to warrant a place in the top-order as Imran's did.

On face value, barring the fact that both are all-rounders and captained Pakistan, there isn't much that connects both players who are separated by a generation in terms of years but united by their contribution to Pakistan cricket.

Imran Khan and Sana Mir are like chalk and cheese, expect when they aren't.

As much of a pioneer, Imran was for men's cricket in Pakistan, Mir is no less when it comes to women's cricket.

Pakistan has always been the homeland of several mercurial talents but before Imran Khan, there was no one that brought them together. While Pakistan might have had better batsmen and bowlers since then, they are yet to find a leader who was as good as Imran at bringing his side together and making it "us against the world".

Two decades might have passed since Pakistan played their first One Day International against New Zealand but only now are they slowly starting to showcase the best of the never-ending production line that produces so many quality international cricketers, under the able guidance of Mir, who has brought the team together.

When Mir made her international debut, PCB had just taken complete control of women's cricket and a shake-up was the name of the game.

England v Pakistan - ICC Women's World Cup 2009 : News Photo
From a far from ideal start, Mir has come a long way

Where they differ in terms of talent, they unite when you look at their leadership skills. Through her leadership, she is creating pathways for Pakistan women's cricketers that few thought would ever exist.

Although Pakistan started playing women's ODIs in 1997, they flew under the radar and news about the exploits of the side was to trees falling in the forest without anyone around to hear the sound.

For long, Pakistan were the whipping girls of women's cricket. A chance to play them was seen as an occasion to boost the numbers, whether you were a batter or a bowler. Hailing from a country that was often marred by violence, hasn't hosted an international match in this decade and where the women still have to train in closed stadiums, with just a single ground for women cricketers in Lahore, the journey hasn't been a bed of roses.

But throughout it all, they have had Mir to take them through and be the beacon of light in the tower of darkness. In 2017, they have come a long way under Mir, where they are inspiring the next generation of female athletes from Pakistan to pursue their dreams.

Instead of focusing on the struggles of the past, the 31-year-old is keen on stressing on the lure of the possible in the future.

In an interview with Cricinfo, she said: "Parents are now encouraging their daughters to play sport because they have seen the success of the women's cricket team; that's the hope we need for our country. Because of our team's success, we see the nation celebrate female mountaineers, female football players, female hockey players; all the female sports have got a boost."

It hasn't always easy for the all-rounder to galvanise her troops when the players aren't exposed to as much cricket as some other countries in the women's circuit. The fact that Pakistan have lost all four games in the ongoing Women's World Cup shows that they still have a long way to go.

But they can take the journey, however daunting, safe in the knowledge that they have Mir to guide them through.

While it might be too much for Mir's girls to inspire an entire nation to take up cricket like Imran's boys did in 1992 but they are already doing something even more precious. As the trailblazer, Mir has shown that there are opportunities for women to succeed at the highest level, even if conditions don't seem ripe.

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