Episode 28: Talking with Pakistan Women’s Former Cricket Captain Sana Mir

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller have launched a new podcast to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They chat regularly about cricket topics – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

Sana Mir played in 226 international matches for Pakistan, as an off-spinning all-rounder, 137 as captain, an appointment she received at just 23. She won many awards in her career, including two Asian Games Gold Medals, and was the first woman cricketer to be honoured by her country. Wisden named her Captain of the  Women’s Team of the last decade. On her retirement earlier this year, she received messages from admirers all over the world, in tribute to the inspiration she has given to women in cricket. She is the latest guest in the regular cricket-themed podcast by Peter Oborne and Richard Heller. In Peter’s absence on an assignment overseas, their friend Roger Alton replaced him as co-host.


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Sana Mir vividly describes her first memories of playing cricket aged 3 ½ with her elder brother and his friends in the backyard and the street in the northern city of Gilgit, where her father was stationed in the Pakistan army. In childhood, she was usually the only girl playing and had to give up the game in her teens in the face of social pressures at the time. 5-8 minutes

But her family supported her cricket dreams, and her mother induced her to seek a trial with the pioneering Khan sisters of Karachi, who decided to form a Pakistan women’s team and invited girls from all over the country to be part of it. She was successful, enjoying the experience of playing hardball cricket with other girls, including other future stars of Pakistan women’s cricket. She also attended other trials in Lahore organized by the rival group recognized by the then Pakistan Cricket Board. She describes her sadness at the bitterness between the two groups – which led her, still in her teens, to invite the President of Pakistan to reconcile them. It was painful for her and other girls to be caught in the crossfire between the two groups, and the experience gained by the Khan sisters’ team in international cricket was lost to the new Pakistan team formed in 2005. 9-15 minutes

Sana Mir describes her entry into that team aged just 19. Although unable to play at her college (for lack of facilities) she kept fit with other sports and did well enough in trial matches to be selected for an ODI against Sri  Lanka. She survived running out her captain and became captain herself four years later.  16-19 minutes She tells the secrets of her success, based on values learnt from her family, in motivating players to improve their performance and win matches by team work. 27 minutes She herself became the ICC’s top-ranked Woman bowler – but for all her many awards she is proudest of the fact that eight team mates joined her in the top 20 World rankings. 24, 27-31 minutes In telling the story of her two Gold medals in the Asian Games, she suggests that these T20 contests could provide a model for women’s cricket in the Olympic Games. She shows how the Asian Games victories were especially important for the prestige of women’s cricket in Pakistan in view of the recent matchfixing scandal which had mired the men’s team. 35-39 minutes

She celebrates beating India twice  in World Cups (a feat unmatched by Pakistan’s men) and describes the greatly improved relationship between the two teams since she first appeared. She names her favourite male players and says why M S Dhoni is her favourite captain. 25, 31-35 minutes

For six years, she received no match fees or regular income from the PCB. She describes the financial difficulties still faced by women cricketers in Pakistan, especially those who want or need to leave home, and the lack of facilities, equipment and special nutrition for them. She pays tribute to the banks and Departments who give them essential support as effectively semi-professionals. 20-24, 40-41 minutes

She pays tribute to the inspiration she derived from other international teams, especially from the sporting cricket and camaraderie of the Sri Lankans and the New Zealanders. 42-44 minutes She gives her view of how to develop women’s cricket in new populations, especially the importance of mentoring from experienced players. 45-47 minutes

Her big regret is the lack of long-form cricket in her own career and for women cricketers in general. She hopes that they will not be confined to T20. 48-50 minutes

She says that her post-cricket plans are still open – but they will definitely include mentorship. She has started work on a book about her cricket story and its lessons. 4, 51-55 minutes

Peter Oborne, Richard Heller & Roger Alton

Roger Alton, guest host for this episode, was formerly editor of The Observer and The Independent, and is currently the Sports Columnist for The Spectator. He has been a cricket enthusiast since watching it at the Oxford University Parks in the 1950s and took part in the legendary Wounded Tiger tour of Pakistan.

Peter Oborne, the regular host, has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast is produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.