If we can do well here, we could change the public perception of women’s game back home: Nigar Sultana

Nigar Sultana © Getty Images

Among the eight captains leading their teams in the World Cup 2022, Nigar Sultana is the youngest. By age as well as experience. She was appointed the leader of the Bangladeshi side just ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe in November 2021. She is already a part of history as she will become the first captain to lead Bangladesh in an ODI World Cup next month.

The 24-year-old spoke with Women’s CricZone from New Zealand about the thrilling opening match against Pakistan in the Qualifiers, plans for the conditions in New Zealand, and her family’s support throughout her career. 

First of all, congratulations on qualifying for the World Cup. Has it sunk yet or are you still pinching yourself?

I think that moment was very exciting. I was so nervous. This is Bangladesh’s first time at the ODI World Cup. So, that’s a long-awaited dream that came true. After the initial celebrations, I realised that it is a huge responsibility as well. We have to do well in the World Cup and for that, we need to prepare ourselves. 

Talk us through that nail-biting qualifier match against Pakistan.

I still feel goosebumps thinking about that match. We needed to win that match to start the tournament on a good note. Those two points were crucial for us. I was injured in my left hand. It was painful to keep with that injury, but I was determined to do it. I took three catches and made one stumping, but it didn’t work well for me in the batting. 

Fargana Hoque played brilliantly that day. Salma Khatun and Rumana Ahmed, very experienced players, finished it off in style for us. Ritu Moni’s cameo of 33 runs in the middle was vital too. We could come back in that match just because of her innings. Salma And Rumana were exceptional in that match.


How crucial is it to have players like Rumana Ahmed, Fargana Hoque, and Salma Khatun in your side?

Rumana is the kind of player you always want in your team. She is a true performer. She is always there when the team needs her the most. Whether it’s with the bat or the ball, she will hold the fort. It’s not just against Pakistan in that game, whenever the team needs her, she is always around. I believe she is going to play a great role in the World Cup.

Fargana Hoque is in good touch. Salma Katun has been contributing to the team with both bat and ball. Every player is trying to improve their performance and trying to contribute to the team. As a captain, I am very lucky because the team is in a good shape ahead of the big tournament.

Also Read: Jahanara Alam named in Bangladesh’s World Cup squad

This is Bangladesh’s first-ever ODI World Cup. How important do you think it is to make an impact in this tournament?

We have not played a lot of ODIs, so I look at it as an opportunity. If we can do well here, we could change the public perception of women’s game back home. It will be huge for the team and the entire nation as well. Other teams will show more interest in playing against us. We will get more international matches. This is the kind of experience we wanted for those matches. 

This is the stage where we can showcase our potential and prove that we are a growing side. We have great players in our team, but they never got the opportunity to play more matches in the ODI format. We understood that if we qualify for the World Cup, we are part of the bigger ICC calendar and we will get to play more matches against big teams that we have never played against. Amongst the senior players, you can’t say how many of them are going to be there for the next World Cup. We want to cherish this opportunity for all of us.

Bangladesh has never played in the New Zealand conditions before. How are you planning to get acquainted with these conditions?

We will play two practice matches and have 10-12 practice sessions, I think that’s enough for us. We have watched a lot of men’s and women’s cricket played in these conditions lately. Our boys played really well here recently. They have shared their experience about the conditions and the wicket. That will definitely help us. We were well acquainted with the Australian wickets, and I think, New Zealand wickets are more or less similar. We know our potential and we want to stick to our strengths, no matter what the conditions are. 

 

With Jahanara Alam and Ritu Moni, your pace attack looks sharp. Do you think, it can create some problems for other teams?

We have included one more right-hander pacer, Suraiya Azmin along with Jahanara Alam and Ritu Moni. Jahanara Alam is a world-class opening bowler with the new ball. Ritu Moni was amazing in the World Cup Qualifiers and Commonwealth Games Qualifiers as well. We have a new face in our team as well. Fariha Trisna, with her left arm pace, will add variety to our pace attack. We know the pace attack will play a crucial role in the New Zealand conditions. I am confident in our bowling unit and we are working on our batting as well. If we could do well, we might surprise some teams as well, who knows? 

Also Read: I will always play for my team and for my nation: Jahanara Alam

You are the first captain to lead Bangladesh in the ODI World Cup. Does that add some extra pressure?

I think captaincy is an extra responsibility. But, I know my team is in a strong position and in a good shape. They play really well and they are confident. This makes me a relaxed captain. Every player is aware of her responsibility. They know what is expected out of them on and off the field. I don’t need to worry about them. I recently took over the captaincy and the management has been helpful. It is an absolute honor to lead the team to our first-ever ODI World Cup. I know, it is going to be a huge opportunity for us and we need to be ready for it.

 

How do you look back at your journey as a player?

I made my debut in 2015 and I have played for Bangladesh for seven years now. When I look back at the journey, it feels like a small moment. Sometimes when I look at my stats, I realise I have played 20-odd ODIs for Bangladesh and a long journey is waiting for me. From my debut till now, I am very proud to represent my country. When I am wearing a Bangladesh jersey, I am thankful for this opportunity and at the same time aware of the responsibility.

 

Your family has always been supportive of you. How important is that support?

I am here just because of my family’s support. They have made a lot of sacrifices to support me. The journey was not easy for me. I grew up in a small town. It was very difficult to choose cricket there. People were very negative in the beginning. They used to tell my mother that a girl shouldn’t play cricket and this is not a good profession for a girl. But now when my mother steps out of the house people ask her how is Joty doing? And now they all are proud of me.

 

The Commonwealth Games Qualifiers in Malaysia didn’t go your way. What have you learned from that tournament?

Many players did well in Malaysia. Those players are part of the World Cup squad. They are all in good shape. They just need to change their vibe from T20Is to ODIs. As a team, we did well in most of the matches in the Qualifiers. The final against Sri Lanka didn’t go our way but, it was a huge learning experience for us. Our bowlers bowled against Chamari Atapattu. She is a great player and bowlers got ample experience bowling against her. That experience will help us in the World Cup.