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The woman who created cricket history.

Dubai: Earlier this month, Jackie Janmohammed created history by becoming the first woman to be elected as the head of a national cricket board when she was named Chairman of Cricket Kenya. Her love for the game, which began when she was just three, led her to become an umpire and then an able administrator.

A lawyer by profession, her huge passion for the game also led to her marrying Mudassar Nazar, the former Pakistan Test star and Head Coach of the International Cricket Council Global Academy. In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, she spoke about her historic achievement and making a mark in a man's world.

How did you get interested in cricket?

I have been watching cricket since I was three years old. My father used to take me to cricket matches in the grounds of Nairobi. Though I was born in Kenya, my forefathers are from India and so I speak Gujarati, Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi.

So did your love for cricket tempt you to play the game?

When I was growing up, there was no women's cricket at all. I used to watch cricket every Sunday and got to know a lot of old Kenyan cricketers. I also went on to become the first female member in a Muslim club. Soon after that I went off to England for higher education, but when I came back to Kenya there wasn't any women's cricket still. So I decided to become an umpire and enjoyed the honour of becoming the first woman umpire that Kenya had ever produced.

Is it cricket that led you to meet your husband Mudassar Nazar?

I met him in 2002 when he came to Kenya as the coach of the Pakistan national team during an Australia-Pakistan-Kenya series in Kenya.

How did you get into administration?

I was involved in the old Kenya Cricket Association, the one which was disbanded eventually. I had been a member of this from 1991.

Then was it through women's cricket that you came into prominence?

No. Women's cricket came into existence in Kenya only six years ago. I took up umpiring very seriously, attending local umpiring classes and examinations. I went on to be appointed as umpire for a Pakistan A team match against UAE in Kenya. When I went out to officiate the match, the Pakistanis refused to come on to the field. The manager of the team was one Brigadier Salahuddin, and I told him that if the players did not come out, the other team would be awarded the match. They were upset, but eventually agreed to play with me officiating the game.

What prompted you to take an interest in cricket administration?

As I was officiating matches regularly, I got involved in the first major tournament we had in Kenya. I was also part of the committee when India first came to Kenya in 1992. In 1999, we had a four-nation tournament, in 2000 I was involved with the Champions Trophy that was staged by Kenya and also in the administration of the 2003 World Cup.

Since cricket administrators were mostly men did you find yourself out of place?

It was difficult for them to accept me as most of the meetings used to go on until 10pm. Meetings are a voluntary job and a lot of women also found it difficult to adjust to the fact that I was in these meetings, sitting with their husbands late into the night. Eventually they accepted it. I am also a practising lawyer so it was nothing new for me.

Being a lawyer, how did you make time for cricket?

Weekends and evenings were always dedicated to cricket. I created time for the game.

How did you get elected to the highest post of a cricket board?

After I became an umpire and got married, I continued to watch cricket all over the world. I made sure I was in Dubai if there was a Pakistan series. I love to watch Test matches. Last year, I decided to put myself forward for the post. I felt that even if I lost, I could be happy that I gave it a shot as I strongly believed that I could make a difference. I was unopposed in the election. I have thus become the first chairperson, though our constitution still says "chairman".

What's the response been like since you started your new role?

The goodwill that I have experienced since I took charge has been unbelievable. People are calling me and asking me what they can do to help cricket. My slogan is simple: I created history. Now let us go further and create history together.

How do you assess the future of Kenyan cricket, especially with some of the star players nearing the twilight of their career?

Many top players are in the last phase of their careers. There are structures that have been put in place and these structures need to be effectively implemented and boosted. We need stronger domestic fixtures and we also need more exposure. Once you play better opposition, you are bound to make a difference and you get used to the opposition.

Are there enough people coming into the game?

People are taking up cricket but Kenya is a very big country. One of the biggest problems we have is funding. The ICC gave us $1.2 million (Dh4.4 million), but that is not adequate because our government does not fund us at all. Therefore, we have to depend on local sponsorship. It is here we are in a catch 22 situation because we need our team to perform well, so that sponsors will come forward. At the moment the game is played in three provinces: Nairobi, Coast and Rift Valley. Most of our cricketers come from two tribes in Kenya, which are Luo and Luhya.

In short, what is your aim in your new role?

To start knocking on the door of Test status, like we once did in 2003.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 23, 2012
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