In the profile picture on her Facebook page, Diana Baig is just another star-struck fan. Possibly taken at a airport, Baig is seen with former Pakistani skipper and cricket star Inzamam-ul-Haq. The caption says #legend, followed with a 'V' emoticon - representing victory. However, 20-year-old Baig is no less than a legend herself in the country. Baig, who hails from the north Pakistani province of Gilgit-Baltistan, has played for the national women's football team already and has been the part of the country's women's cricket team which played in ICC World Cup 2015. She was also selected to be a part of the team that played for the ICC WomenT20 World Cup 2016, however, she had to sit out on the sidelines.
During an interview to Cricket Country, Baig recounted how she grew up playing cricket and football on the streets in her home in Hunza Valley, nestled amid some tall mountains. Though women playing sports isn't a familiar sight in conservative pockets of the Pakistani society, Baig says comes from a family with moderate values who encouraged her to play sports, alongside the boys as a child and then an young adult. AFP reports: "Baig belongs to the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam, who are followers of the Aga Khan — infamous in conservative Pakistan for their moderate views."
Baig, by her own admission, has a favourite sport - and that is cricket. However, she fondly relates the story of how she bagged a place in the national women's football team.
Cricket Country reports: "While playing cricket for Islamabad, she tried her luck with football as well as she joined a local team that needed players. She made into the team and, to her disbelief, in 2014 was selected to play for Pakistan at the SAFF Championships in Bahrain. She has been a member of the starting 11 as a defender ever since, she says, unable to hide her excitement."
Baig has had a bit of a rough run with cricket, but she she has been persistent in the pursuit of the sport. AFP reports that from playing on the streets Baig progressed to playing for events in the neighbourhood and then for local teams. In 2010, she got the opportunity to lead a newly-minted Gilgit-Baltistan women's cricket team.
"Two years later, she was selected for Pakistan's A side, and then as a reserve player for the 2013 World Cup. In 2015 she finally won her first international cap, playing for Pakistan against Bangladesh," the report states.
The AFP report notes that unlike the men's cricket team, women cricketers are not offered contracts by the national selectors and are selected on a match-by-match basis from local teams. That apart, they are not offered proper support in the way of training facilities, training time etc. So Baig mostly relied on her university team and resources to try making it to the national team - and even when she made it, there was no guarantee that she would get to play or play regularly.
So while her sights her set on making it big in her first love cricket, she is not ready to give up on football yet. She told AFP, "“I try to start from football... I play football in the morning, then our cricket training starts around 11 or 12 noon and continues until 3:00 pm or 4:00 pm.”
And she also manages to squeeze in some time for her studies. Now that's what we call determination!