Summayah Jan, Kashmir’s woman chief coach in the J&K Cricket Association, comes from a middle-class family in Kachdoora village, Shopian district. Despite the lack of sports facilities in her home state Summayah’s passion for the game remains undeterred. The 25-year-old recalls how as a kid, she started playing cricket with a handmade bat and a lightweight tennis ball. “My parents were expecting a boy child after five girls, as anyone else would in this conservative state. So, when I was born, they raised me like a boy. I dabbled in volleyball, basketball and all kinds of sports. I would play cricket like I used to play marbles with other boys in the locality,” Summayah told SheThePeople.TV.

Some edited snippets from our conversation with Summayah Jan:

What inspired you to take up cricket?

In Kashmir, any kid interested in sports, is automatically motivated to play cricket. Kashmiris believe everyone should know how to bat, at least. As a teenaged girl, I would play with in our backyards and of course, my parents considered it improper for girls to play. I continued playing cricket beside volleyball because I loved to, hoping that they would understand one day.

Then in 2007, when I was in Class 11, my day of triumph arrived. My performance during my first School Nationals at Sonawar, Srinagar impressed people. Coach, N P Singh was all praise for me, I scored 47 runs and took five wickets. Though, I had played volleyball at nationals before, I never knew the taste of victory. I was naturally drawn towards cricket.

You are soon to become Kashmir’s second woman cricket coach. We want to know your story so far. When did you realise the passion for sports?

I took up professional cricket in 2008. I started playing in the under-19 tournaments and became the only player from Kashmir and among two other girls from J&K to be selected for the North Zone team in 2011.

Summayah Jan
Summayah Jan

The selection in the team was inspiring. Soon I started contemplating boosting my sports career. As a kid, I would play with a handmade bat and a plastic ball with local boys in a nearby ground, but now I realised a proper training with a professional coach is the best way to go.

I wasn’t a brilliant student but I knew I could achieve a lot in cricket. This beautiful game has changed my life forever.

I started receiving awards in the district and have had jointly played in more than 16 senior-junior nationals that include almost 14 senior nationals.

And, when did you decide to become a coach?

It all came to me after finishing my bachelors in Physical Education from RTM University, Nagpur. I started pursuing a diploma in Cricket at NIS Patiala. Once I complete the diploma, I’ll be a full-fledged, but the second woman cricket coach from Kashmir.

I struggled a lot to make a life in the sport. The motivation to help others follow their passion impelled me to coach aspirants, especially girls, from the valley. I have seen other state’s players and the gap is evident. Their techniques are highly matured. Also, parents here aren’t comfortable with their girls training under a male coach. I lacked a proper teacher so I decided to teach them what I have learnt.

Who was the inspiration behind your career?

Honestly, it was just the passion for the sport that inspired me to come this far.

Summayah Jan
Summayah Jan

Coming from a society like J&K, and we are sure when you go on the field for practice you are the only female player there. How did you overcome the challenging times?

There’s no lack of talent in Kashmir. When I started playing the so-called men’s game — like I would play marbles with local boys — my family kept locking me in my room, but they couldn’t stop me from breaking the rules. Seeing my passion for the game my brother supported me.

It went to the extent that once when I returned home from a playing trip, I learnt, that my brother was thrown out of a local religious body in an unexpected manner because they expressed disbelief in him for allowing his sister to play cricket.

But I was stubborn. And, I knew I had to sustain my passion in the game.

Does J&K have any academy where kids get training? How many girls are there?

Jammu and Kashmir’s first ever cricket academy kicked off last year only for budding Kashmiri cricketers. It has been coaching under-16 age group and noticed a participation of 20 to 30 girls. In the upcoming months, other age categories will also start. I took some time off to go there and coached as well, for four months. I coached them free because my main motive was to share my learning.

If I am sad, I play cricket. If I am happy and victorious, I practice twice as hard.

Share your strategies for the sport and insights.

I want to explore the game of cricket more, overcome my weaknesses as a player.

READ: Women In Sports Are More Liberated Than In Any Other Field: Arshi Nad

What are the biggest challenges that came your way?

Main har ek rishtey ko khokar yeh sport mein aayi hoon (I lost every relationship to pursue cricket!) My relatives, society and even my parents, after being stressed by the extended family to such an extent, wanted me to give up cricket. None of my relatives, cousins or friends are in touch with me.

Summayah Jan
Summayah Jan

Lack of infrastructural and equipment support is a big hurdle for us. The government and J&K Sports Council are doing minimal to provide the basic facilities. Kashmiri youth are skilled, but societal constraints and pressure of log kya kahenge holds them back.

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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