“If this is the stage where dreams are made, I’m about to make my dreams come true.”
For a very long time, cricket was regarded as the gentlemen’s game. But this notion is part of history now, with cricket becoming a much more attractive sport, especially since the development of the women’s game.
Birmingham based Salma Bi is one of the finest young cricketers in England and has already made a huge impact on women’s cricket. Salma nicknamed the ‘Queen of Speen’ is an exceptional Right-arm off break bowler who can also bat.
Born on 12th February 1986 in Pakistan, Salma migrated to England with her family when she was six months old. Salma comes from a sporting family, led by her dad who was a former heavy weight lifter in Pakistan. Playing sports is not often associated with young Pakistani girls. Overcoming many hurdles along the way she said:
“I always say I wasn’t born gifted or talented or to be the next big thing; I had to work hard. And it’s weird because what helped me the most whilst at the same time was my biggest barrier was being Asian, but I’m proud of that.”
Salma began playing cricket at the age of ten. She would often play with her brothers in the back garden.
As Salma was not professionally trained, she had to rely on street cricket to toughen her game. Afterwards she started playing at school and participated in various competitions.
After gaining some experience as captain of her school team, Salma set her eyes on county cricket.
Salma had long been trialling for Warwickshire without much success. The reason for not being selected was because she had limited exposure of club cricket.
Similarly when Salma was put forward for a trial at Worcestershire by her school, she was given the same response. Naturally Salma had to prove her skills at club level to get a chance to play in county cricket. Thus she started playing regular club cricket and has not looked back since.
Fortunately for Salma, her club Five Ways Old Edwardians CC came under Warwickshire and Worcestershire. At the age of twenty-one, Salma yet again went for a trial at Worcestershire County Cricket Club. Competing with around twenty girls, many better equipped than her, she did well under pressure and came out successful.
This was a special moment in Salma’s career, as she became the first British Asian and Muslim woman to play for Worcestershire County Cricket Club. What makes Salma stand out is her bowling, in particular her off spin bowling with an unorthodox action. Her stock delivery is bowled from back of the hand and she has mastered the Googly, colloquially described as a Wrong’Un.
Growing up she use to watch matches, featuring Australian Leg Spinner, Shane Warne. Inspired by Warne, Salma gradually learnt the art of spin bowling. Idolising her hero, she would analyse the way he bowled in order to self-coach herself.
Although the women’s game is becoming increasingly popular, the inclusion of more British Asian players is the need of the hour. Talented England cricketer Isha Guha also encourages more girls to join the sport.
“It would be great to see more Asian women playing cricket at every level. There isn’t a traditional background of Asian women playing sport, but that’s changing. Cricket is a sport girls can play and be successful in irrespective of their background,” says Guha.
Sharing her experiences, Salma said: “I have really enjoyed my cricket. Women’s cricket has been amazing, I have met some superb people, along the way.”
From the women’s game, Salma Bi admires Charlotte Edwards, the current England captain. Turning up at one of her training sessions, Edwards was very impressed with Salma’s approach and attitude towards the game. Motivated by Edwards, Salma dreams of one day representing England. With her confidence at an all time high and with a unique bowling action, Salma has a good chance to play for England.
One area that she needs to work on is her batting. She often gets out playing reckless shots, similar to what Shahid Afridi does in the men’s game. Cricket or any other sport is about commitment, the more competitive matches you play, the better you will get over time.
In the past, Salma has been offered to play for a team in Faisalabad, Pakistan. But after giving it much thought, she felt the opportunity was too risky at the time. With the women’s game slowly improving in Pakistan, Salma has not ruled out playing for the country she was born in.
Salma exclusively spoke to DESIblitz.com about her development as a professional cricketer, whilst encouraging young British Asian women into the sport:
In order to improve herself, Salma continues to play cricket all year round. Salma is pushing her sister hard, because she considers her to be very talented. Her sister, Anisha Bi represents the under 17’s at Warwickshire County Cricket Club. Two of Salma’s brothers also play club cricket, but Salma and her sister have outshine the men in the family by playing county cricket.
Besides playing, she also coaches in her spare time. In 2012, Salma launched a coaching initiative, ‘Believe in Making a Difference [M.A.D],’ raising awareness of girls/women’s cricket and disability cricket. In the true spirit of the game, Salma says: “Cricket is not about yourself it’s a team game.”
In recognition of her accomplishments since taking up cricket, Salma received an award for ‘Outstanding Achievement’ at the 2009 British Asian Sports Awards. Reflecting on her award, Salma said:
“It made me realise that all the struggles and difficulties I went through were worth it after winning this accolade.”
She significantly remembers standing on stage, receiving the award and saying: “If this is the stage where dreams are made, I’m about to make my dreams come true.”
Some of her biggest achievements include: Warwickshire Level 1 Umpire, Warwickshire Level 2+ Coach, Fiveways Zombies Indoor Cricket Captain [Champions 2012 and 2013], Asian Women of Achievement inaugural Sports Award Winner 2012 and Marleybone Cricket Club [MCC] Representative Player.
Salma hopes other young British Asian women can learn from her achievements. Salma confesses, it can be tough to balance her job as a full-time Haemodialysis Nurse and play cricket. But she wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I feel I have no regrets but I do wake up every day thinking did I do enough yesterday to go on tomorrow,” said Salma.
She added: “But if I had a second chance I would’ve started playing sports at a younger age and that’s something as a coach I encourage girls to do.”
As for the future, Salma would love to become an umpire, as there aren’t many female umpires on the circuit. Salma Bi is excited about the season ahead with Worcestershire County Cricket Club, hopefully displaying some more brilliant cricket.