UNVEILING JAZBAA: A History of Pakistan Women’s Cricket

The Jazbaa Unfurled

By Sara Danial | December 2022

Endorsed by Kamila Shamsie, Unveiling Jazbaa: A History of Pakistan Women’s Cricket, authored by Aayush Puthran, chronicles the history of 25 years of Pakistan women’s cricket - their games, their lives, and much more. The book relays the stunning journey of the players who thought of bringing about a shift in the country as well as the sport.

The term jazbaa is literally translated in Urdu as spirit, feeling, passion, desire, sentiment and emotion. Narrated through the eyes of society and politics, the story overarches personal battles and triumphs, despite all odds. These are stories of strains in friendships, professional rivalries, tales of favours, and revenge. At the same time, this is a story of relentless courage, infallible will, and poignant evidence of human spirit.

The protagonist Shaiza Khan led the Pakistan team on a tour of New Zealand and Australia. Although it proved to be a failure on the sports front, the collective power of singularity seen in the team of eleven women struggling for victory was a triumph in itself. These women attempted to overthrow the social and cultural stigmas around the sport and the gender riddling the country for eons. More importantly, the women became drivers and enablers of change to emerge as role models for women in Pakistan and all around the world.

“In 1997, determined to field a side in the Women’s World Cup, sisters Shaiza and Sharmeen Khan from Karachi cobbled together a team and played three games in New Zealand and Australia to qualify for the tournament. There was a long-standing dispute between the Pakistan Women’s Cricket Association (PWCA) and the Pakistan Women’s Cricket Control Association (PWCCA) over which body had ownership of women’s cricket in Pakistan. The PWCA was the older body, established in 1978 and run from Lahore. But the PWCCA, set up by Shaiza Khan in 1996, got official recognition from the PCB and the International Women’s Cricket Council (IWCC) and came to be the official body representing Pakistan women’s cricket.”

This excerpt from the book reinstates our faith in the power of women and reinforces our belief in the muscle of collective influence. Highlighting the transcendent moments as well as tragedies, it lifts the seemingly impregnable veil behind which hides the legality issues, social disorders, cultural questions, and political problems. One of the uncanny yet epochal events in the book was the announcement by the founder of Hero MotoCorp, Brijmohan Lall Munjal at the welcome of the neighbouring country in the opening ceremony of the tournament held in New Delhi, India: “Pakistan has won the World Cup just by turning up here.”

This seemed like a bizarre statement to make, especially looking at the unpromising results of the team. However, those who were genuinely aware of the struggle that brought the team to the Indian capital’s venue were not bemused. The captain of the team, Shaiza Khan, and her team had, literally fled Pakistan, when they were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL), the state’s go-to means to contain lawbreakers accused of severe misconduct.

The Pakistan women’s cricket team may have returned absolutely defeated and hopeless but the act of bringing Pakistan onto the global cricketing circuit was overwhelming in itself. This gave rise to two groups in Lahore, one led by Tahira Hameed and the other headed by Shirin Javed - who had wished to accomplish what Shaiza ultimately did by steering her team to an international tour to New Zealand in a fairly short span of time. All the groups who fought amongst themselves to earn the title of the PWCA, now looked up to Shaiza, dedicating a nuanced turn to the Lahore vs Karachi tussle in Pakistani cricket arena.