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'I dream of batting against Saeed Ajmal and bowling to Shahid Afridi'

Pakistan allrounder Nida Dar talks about her Lala love, Punjabi food, and her best moments in the game

Annesha Ghosh
Annesha Ghosh
Nida Dar celebrates a wicket, Bangladesh v Pakistan, Asian Games final, Incheon, September 24, 2014

The starfish enterprise: A Shahid Afridi fan, Nida Dar started copying his celebration style in her own games  •  Getty Images

Pakistan allrounder Nida Dar talks about her Lala love, Punjabi food, and her best moments in the game
Let's talk about that signature Shahid Afridi "starfish" celebration. How did it come about?
As a kid, I used to be in awe of Shahid Afridi. When my family and I would watch him on TV, I used to think, "I want to be an allrounder like Afridi". By the time I started playing international cricket, my admiration for him began to show in my own celebration as well. That "starfish" thing began at the 2010 Asian Games.
Is that where the description "Lady - Lala Boom Boom", in your Twitter bio also comes from?
A Pakistani journalist a few years ago described me in an interview as "Lady Lala" of Pakistan after I took a catch in a game against Bangladesh. My team-mates call me Dar or Daru, but when I am bowling or batting really well, they say, "Kya baat hai, Laley! [Wow, Laley!]"
What's your favourite memory of Afridi?
When he used to open the batting in Tests, I remember he hit Harbhajan [Singh] for a few sixes.
What was your best cricket memory?
In the final of the 2010 Asian Games, I made an unbeaten 51 and took a three-for, against Bangladesh. We won the gold, so that's special. There's also the 68 not out against India in the 2013 World Cup and the 204 I made in a domestic game against Faisalabad in 2015.
Nida Dar on Sana Mir
What do you like most about living in Gujranwala?
It's known as the city of wrestlers, and I find it quite interesting that people here keep eating all the time. Matlab kuch ho ya na ho, bas khatein rahte hain [I mean, whatever happens, they just eat all the time].
What Pakistani delicacies would you recommend to a visitor?
Mutton Kadhai and other mutton-related dishes. My personal favourite, though, is very Punjabi: rajma chawal.
What variations do have in your offspin bowling?
I change my angle a fair bit. There's the slower one, the doosra and a few others.
Do you like bowling more than batting?
It's the other way round actually. I've always been in the top rankings for the bowlers, but I enjoy batting a lot.
What's your favourite shot?
The sweep.
You seem a lot fitter than you were about ten months ago. What work have you done on your fitness?
Two months after returning home from the Sri Lanka tour [in March this year], I realised I had put on about 6.5kgs. I did a lot of cardio, core work, focused on my diet and shed six kilos in a week. Some of my team-mates were surprised. I have been taking care of my fitness since then.
If you could go back in time and face any bowler - male or female - from history in their prime, who would it be?
I had a dream of batting against Saeed Ajmal and bowling to Afridi.
Is there a retired Pakistan women's cricketer you miss in the dressing room?
Asmavia [Iqbal]. Although [Syeda] Nain [Abidi] hasn't retired, since she's not part of our World T20 side, I think we miss her presence in the dressing room.
Who is the most superstitious player in the Pakistan team?
No one
Javeria Khan or Bismah Maroof - who is the stricter captain?
Neither (laughs). Their style of batting and captaincy is quite similar - calm and focused - and they emphasise more on the process than the result.
Tell us something about Sana Mir we might not know yet.
She is quite jolly in the dressing room, jokes around with the youngsters, and is always willing to help others both on the field and off the field.
What has working with a New Zealander in coach Mark Coles been like?
He's very cool. He keeps us together as a team, inspires us to help one another, and no matter what the result, what the state of a training session, he makes us focus on the positive side of things.
There were a few young players in the Indian side you played against in Georgetown. Whom where you most impressed with? Jemimah [Rodrigues] is a zabardast [great] find for India. Very good batsman. I rate Deepti Sharma very highly - a great allrounder, she is.
What was the best phase of play in the maiden T20I half-century you scored in that match?
When Bismah and I were building the partnership, we kept swapping roles every now and then. When she was going for boundaries, I was pinching singles and vice-versa.
Which of the World T20 campaigns has been the most memorable for you?
The one in which we defeated India for the first time [in 2012]. We won by one run, and I took three wickets in that game.
What's the best thing about playing cricket?
Your lifestyle changes completely. If I can describe it in Punjabi, I would say cricket khelne se aap insaan ke puttar ban jaate ho [Cricket turns you into a human being]. It instils discipline in you.
If we gave you six balls to bowl at one stump, how many times would you hit?
Umeed acchhi rakhni chahiye life mein [You should always be optimistic in life], so I will say six times, but realistically, maybe only three.

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo