International cricket will return to Lauderhill at the Central Broward Regional Park, which has the only International Cricket Council (ICC)-certified cricket stadium in the country, when the Pakistan women’s cricket team take on the U.S. national team in two T20 matches on Nov. 4.
With the USA Cricket Association (USACA) currently under suspension by the ICC, the matches will only have the status of exhibition games. The matches were made possible due to the fact that Pakistan is currently touring the West Indies for a series of one-day internationals.
It was some quick thinking by Chicago-based Akhtar Masood, USACA director of women’s cricket operations, that made the matches happen. “I have been trying to get teams from other countries to play here, but funding is a big issue,” he said. “When I heard of the Pakistan team’s tour of the West Indies, I got in touch with a few people, and thankfully, they agreed.”
Pakistan will start as heavy favorites. “They have been playing really well of late; they beat the West Indies in the first one-day international and narrowly lost the second game,” said Masood. “This will be a learning experience for the U.S., team; I am sure this will help our team in the long run.”
The games come as a great relief for the U.S. team that is yet to recover from the ICC canceling the Americas Women’s Championship last year. “Our girls don’t play enough; there is no national championship, and the team is not allowed to participate in qualifying tournaments,” Masood said. “It’s sad because we have a really good team, full of girls who want to go out and prove themselves. I believe our team is better than teams like China, Thailand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.”
Among the big names on the U.S. team are Erica Rendler from San Jose, who switched from softball to cricket with much success, Nadia Gruny, Sindhu Ashok and Gita Venkat. Starved of games, some of them play in various men’s leagues across the country.
The Pakistan team, led by Sana Mir, the country’s most successful captain in the women’s game, includes veterans such as Nain Abidi, Javeria Khan and Marina Iqbal, as well as several promising youngsters like Anam Amin and Rabiya Shah. Masood, who played first-class cricket in Pakistan before he moved to the United States more than three decades ago, believes the women’s game is becoming more popular in the country.
“Girls play cricket in schools and colleges these days,” Masood said. “Banks and big companies are offering jobs to women cricketers as well. Cricket is not just a pastime anymore for girls in Pakistan. Some of the players on the national team play with men.”
New York-based Afzal Usmani, owner of ST Media, is helping the USACA put together the event. “As the ICC is not supporting the game in our country, someone had to step in. Being a cricket lover, I thought it was my responsibility to help in any way I could. We don’t want the game to die in the U.S.”
“This is going to help our efforts to promote cricket in the country,” said Rizwan Mohammed, USACA South East Regional representative. “We want more girls to take up the game. This is the first time that we are organizing something like this at Lauderhill; I hope we have a decent turnout.”
Arun Sivasankaran, a longtime cricket columnist, covers the sport here in South Florida and around the world. Email cricket news and match scores to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published originally on sun-sentinel.com.