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Pakistan launches first women~~s cricket tournament

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Lahore:Pakistan launched its first national women's cricket championship, with organisers hoping the event will inspire up-and-coming female cricketers in the conservative Muslim country.

"It's a historic occasion," Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) spokesman Abbas Zaidi said on Tuesday ahead of the week-long tournament in the eastern city of Lahore.

"With the unprecedented patronage of the PCB we hope the event will create huge interest in the new generation," he added.

Teams from Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Multan, Quetta, Hyderabad, Peshawar and Faisalabad are taking part. Four teams will qualify for a so-called Super League, with the top two teams contesting the final on March 7.

Particularly significant is the presence of the team from Peshawar, where an Islamic fundamentalist provincial government discourages women's sports and last year banned male coaches for female players.

"We are here with the permission of our parents and have no fear of anyone," said a Peshawar player, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The PCB created a separate women's wing last year, after the International Cricket Council took control of the International Women's Cricket Council.

"We have begun a new chapter in women's cricket with over 100 women players in attendance for the eight regional teams," said Shamsa Hashmi, secretary of the Board's female division.

Officials hope that handing control of the tournament to the PCB's women's section will also end a decade-long feud between three rival female cricket associations, which all claimed to be the game's true representative in Pakistan.

The feud ended up in the courts and also saw two Pakistan teams reaching India for the 1997 women's World Cup.

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