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'Now people will recognise us' - Nigar Sultana pleased after sharing ODI series against India

Fargana Hoque, who became Bangladesh's first century-maker in women's ODIs, admits to panicking in the 90s, but says she drew inspiration from the top men's batters

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
22-Jul-2023
Nigar Sultana and Fargana Hoque had a useful partnership, Bangladesh vs India, 1st women's ODI, Dhaka, July 16, 2023

Nigar Sultana and Fargana Hoque were the best of Bangladesh's batters in the series  •  BCB

Nigar Sultana is hopeful that the 1-1 scoreline in the ODI series against India will give the Bangladesh women's team more prominence in their country.
"We are quite happy with the overall outcome," Nigar said after the third and final game ended in a tie in Dhaka. "We would have been really happy had we won the series. I feel we have taken a respectable step forward. Many people [at home] didn't know who plays in the Bangladesh team. Now people will recognise who is Nahida [Akter], who is [Fargana Hoque] Pinky, who is Marufa [Akter]. I think this itself is an achievement. It was nice of the cricket board to say positive things about us too. They came to see our matches. The crowd supported us. The media is promoting us."
Nigar reserved special praise for Fargana, who became the first Bangladesh woman to score a century in women's ODIs. "We batted really well. It was a real positive," Nigar said. "Pinky apu batted superbly. Held up one end. We couldn't bat the full 50 overs in the previous game, so that was a target for us today."
Fargana batted at No. 3 in the first two ODIs, but was sent to open the batting in the final game, something which was communicated to her by head coach Hashan Tillakaratne the night before. She repaid the faith by cracking 107, the first ODI century by a Bangladeshi woman, which also earned her the first Player-of-the-Series award for a woman from her country in ODIs.
"I always bat in the top order. I played at No. 3, but yesterday the head coach told me to be mentally prepared to open the innings," Fargana said. "I went to the wicket with a strong mindset. I could adjust to the swing. I believed in myself. We have four or five batters who are capable of getting big scores. You have to be very skilful when playing against big teams. I believed in my skills, my process.
"I wanted to capitalise on my good start. We are getting results slowly, so we will keep following the same process. I liked the fact that I tried to bat long, and it paid off. My batting isn't free of mistakes, so I want to improve more in the future."
Were there any nerves in the nineties?
"I hadn't scored a hundred at this level, but I saw people making centuries. I saw Mushfiq [Mushfiqur Rahim] bhai score a hundred. I saw [Najmul Hasan] Shanto bhai score two hundreds recently. I looked at how they spent time in the middle," she said. "I didn't think of scoring a hundred here but it was about batting every ball on its merit.
"When I reached 96, I panicked a bit. I played out a few deliveries. But I told myself that to be a good batter, I have to bat till the end. My friends were disappointed when I got out on 47 in the last game. I tried to stick to the process, which helped me get the big score."
Nigar said that her team should have bowled better to close down the game much earlier but was happy with how it ended, India going from 160 for 3 - and then 191 for 5 - to 225 all out.
"I think we could have won the game had we bowled better," Nigar said. "It wouldn't have come this far then. We came back well after a poor powerplay with the ball. I think we overcame some of the mistakes from the second game. We should have closed this series in the second game itself. There's a lot of lessons from this series that we can use in the future.
"There cannot be anything more positive than playing well against a top opponent. We have been boosted by this performance. We are going into a break with good feelings. We tied the game, so we didn't lose. It gives everyone a boost."

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84