It’s not very often that league cricketers get the opportunity to play against an international cricket captain ... even more so when that person happens to be a woman.
Players in the Sheaf Sports Yorkshire and Derbyshire League are currently putting their skills - and their reputations! - on the line against Pakistan’s star all-rounder Urooj Mumtaz Khan.
An accomplished right-hand bat and leg break bowler, Urooj has taken a year’s leave in order to complete a postgraduate course at the University of Sheffield and her arrival was too good an opportunity to miss for the Staff team.
The University Staff Cricket Club is well-known for its cosmopolitan squad from around the globe but there’s no denying that their latest notable addition has caused quite a stir.
Then again, regardless of gender, Urooj has a playing record that would be the envy of even the most macho of male cricketers.
The 25-year-old, who started playing cricket with her father and cousins in Karachi at the age of four, has captained the Pakistan women’s team on numerous occasions since 2004/05 and helped them qualify for two World Cups.
She’s featured in one full Test, against the West Indies, 38 One Day Internationals and nine Twenty20s and played against all the major teams, including England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and India. Urooj hit an unbeaten 37 and returned 2-29 from her 12 overs on her home University Staff debut against Hundall CC at Warminster Road, Norton, and since then she has continued to make her mark as the team look to improve on last season’s fourth-place finish in Division One.
“I’m really enjoying it,” she said. “It’s a good standard and a nice, friendly atmosphere although some people do tend to forget that while I’m an international cricketer, I’m a woman and male cricketers are usually stronger and bowl faster!”
And what about comments from the opposition? Urooj has had a few ...
“Some men still have this idea that women can’t play cricket and don’t see the good side of it,” she added.
There’s also the macho factor - what would life be like for a batsman bowled by Urooji or a bowler who she hits for four?
But she feels it works in her favour as players put themselves under increased pressure when they’re facing her or bowling to her.
“It can be very funny but it’s good to be able to show them what you can do with bat or ball.
“I absolutely love cricket. I’ve got to meet so many wonderful people, travel the world, play against the best and have the honour of captaining my country.” University Staff club captain, Richard Ward is, of course, delighted to be able to call on a player of Urooj’s calibre.
He said: “She’s an exceptional cricketer and adds genuine depth to our challenge for honours.
“Urooj’s participation is also a great opportunity to showcase the standard of the best women cricketers and hopefully it will inspire other young women to take up the sport.” Urooj, who like her parents is a qualified dentist, will return to Pakistan at the end of September and resume her international career ... with a lasting memory of at least 25 wickets and a few hundred runs for University Staff!
Now I wonder what the men would say to that?