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Women's Cricket

Hijab cricketer Insha Mir a role model in Kashmir's Baramulla

The big question for Jammu and Kashmir cricketer Insha Mir earlier used to be if she should wear a hijab under her helmet while batting. Now, it is all about whether she can be good enough to play for India.

Hijab cricketer Insha Mir a role model in Kashmirs Baramulla
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Insha Mir used to always wear the hijab while batting earlier, but as seen in the Kashmir Premier League this year (right), she doesn't always wear it now. 

By

Mubashir Naik

Irshad Hussain

Updated: 2022-09-03T17:56:10+05:30

Baramulla: Kashmiri all-rounder Insha Bashir Mir's toughest battles have always been beyond the boundary ropes. Hailing from this town in north Kashmir, where the hijab continues to be a prickly issue, the 26-year-old is just glad the big question in her life has changed from what she would wear to if she is good enough to play for India.

"Very few people have encountered as much discrimination and taunts in their careers as I have," Insha, the first woman cricketer from north Kashmir to have played for J&K, told The Bridge.

Her town came into national headlines earlier this year after an Army-run school issued an order to teachers to not wear the hijab during school hours. The school retracted the order after widespread criticism, but this is an issue Insha Mir has faced all her life.

Earlier, she used to wear a hijab under her helmet while batting as well as when she was on the field, but even that was not enough to escape criticism. Her friends and neighbours found it reason to make fun of her just because she left her house on her scooter in jeans every morning - "like males are supposed to do."

"People often complained to my father that they had seen me walking in track pants and carrying a cricket bat," Insha said.

But luckily for Insha, her family did not bow down to the expectations society had from her, asking her only to chase her dreams.

Isha's father Basheer Ahmed, a fruit vendor in Baramulla, told The Bridge that he hopes to see his daughter in the India jersey.

"I don't care what people think. I'd rather concentrate on what my daughter wants," Basheer said. "Even though cricket is just a game, it has given her fighting spirit," he added.

Religious, societal expectations of women in J&K

Having challenged societal and religious stereotypes for years, Insha has already won her toughest battles. As a multi-sport athlete who has played for Jammu & Kashmir in both cricket and volleyball, she has come a long way.

"In my childhood, I used to play gully cricket with boys. At the age of 15 I got into training for the first time. The first few years were very hard, but things have changed after I played in the Ranji Trophy," she said.

Having played for J&K for the last three years, Insha Mir now captains the Baramulla Government College women's cricket team.

She added that the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) is doing its best to promote the women's game along with men's cricket, but the reception is not always nice.

"A social media campaign was launched in the hopes of receiving some assistance, but the comments from some people in this male-dominated society were demoralising," she said.

After a ten-year-long battle, Insha Mir might not be as close to her target of removing religious bias from cricket in Baramulla as she might have hoped, but there is a section of people to whom she is an idol. Baramulla, which never had a tradition in cricket, has now taken the lead in women's sports within Kashmir. Several girls from her college team have made the plunge into domestic cricket.

Rifat Nabi, 17, a junior cricketer from Jamia Qadeem in Sopore, said: "I have been playing cricket since my childhood but I could not expect to pursue cricket as my profession until Insha di. She taught us a lot of things and it's all because of her that I am still playing," Rifat told The Bridge.

Leg spinner Bilkees Rasool in action

21-year-old Bilkees Rasool of Nowshera Baramulla, who has also played for J&K in recent years, also expressed her gratitude to Insha.

She said, "I had no idea earlier that there could be a future in cricket. When I went to college and saw girls playing, especially Insha, I got inspired and requested her to guide me as well."

At the Baramulla Government College women's cricket team's practice session, there are some who still wear headgears under their helmets while batting and some who still run in to bowl in burqas. But for the captain of the team, Insha Mir, what they wear is least important. What matters is if they can make their parents as proud of their daughters as she was able to.

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