SHARJAH – As United Arab Emirates seeks to expand its cricket Gulf dominance, Emirati hijabi national team cricketer Humaira Tasneem is offering a role model to hundreds of girls wishing to represent their country in international tournaments.
“I’m pretty sure there are people hidden out there who are not playing cricket because they think a hijab means they could not play,” Tasneem, who was born in Al Ain, told Muslim Global News on Sunday, April 10.
“But it is fine. When we had the Gulf Cup [a tournament UAE won in December] felicitation, one of the girls came to me and said: ‘I hope I can be like you one day’.
“That felt so good. She was wearing a hijab and she said: ‘I want to be a cricketer, just like you’. If people see any Hijabi playing sports, it must help. I’m pretty sure there are girls out there who wear a hijab and don’t come to play sport because of it.”
The 20-year-old architecture student is one of the few players wearing a headscarf.
She inherited passion for cricket from her father, which was encouraged by her distant relative Mohammed Azharuddin, the former India captain, then developed via feisty matches with her two brothers.
Involved with the national team since she was 12, hijab has never been a problem to the young player.
“When I was young I didn’t wear the scarf to play,” Tasneem said.
“When I first did I wondered if people would ask why I was wearing it, but nothing like that ever happened.
“It is a Muslim country so people saw me wearing a hijab and said: ‘That’s great’. I don’t think anybody would be so shallow that they would have an issue with it. Nobody does.”
Donning hijab over the past years, Tasneem sends a clear message to all girls that there should be no impediment to playing cricket.
Seeking to expand cricket among nationals, the Emirates Cricket Board are currently in the midst of a nationwide talent hunt for male and female cricketers.
“That will provide a chance to get some stats on each player,” said Andy Russell, the development manager who is overseeing the restructuring of the grass-roots game.
“Throughout the summer we will bring them all together again, for training throughout the three months.
“It gives them some sort of structure, and something to do every month. In the past it was from tournament to tournament, and that could be one year at a time.
“We wanted to get away from everyone training together because that is not really how you grow the game. This is the first step towards getting the players to enter more leagues.”