'After the first ball, I became confident' - Saleema Imtiaz, Kainat's mother, makes her international debut

Saleema Imtiaz poses with the Women's Asia Cup trophy Getty Images

Like all debutants, Saleema Imtiaz had a bout of the nerves when she officiated in an international match for the first time, earlier this week in the India vs Sri Lanka game at the Women's Asia Cup. But it lasted all of one ball. She has umpired at the domestic level for more than a decade, so once the ball was set rolling, she was in her comfort zone.

For Saleema, and many others, the Asian Cricket Council's decision to appoint an all-female group of umpires for the tournament, being held in Sylhet, has meant new opportunities.

"I have been umpiring for 15 years, but I was shocked when I got called by the Asian Cricket Council," Saleema told ESPNcricinfo. "I was a little nervous making my international debut. It is a first exposure for me. I was obviously very excited. But it was a great experience. When the first ball was bowled in the match, I became confident. I told myself, 'I can do this'.

"It is a great opportunity from the ACC to the female umpires and match referees. We are from different countries and cultures, but we are here like a family. We support each other. We teach each other. There should be more such opportunities. The male umpires have been doing it in previous Asia Cups. I think we are doing a good job. I also want to thank the PCB for selecting us."

"Males don't have as many problems as females, especially in Asian countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan. If they trust their daughters, wives and mothers, they will bring honour to the family" Saleema Imtiaz

She isn't the only one from Pakistan at the Asia Cup, there's also Humaira Farah. And there a number of umpires and other match officials from other Asian countries, including from Qatar, Malaysia and the UAE.

Saleema started umpiring in 2006 after taking part in a course conducted by the PCB. Prior to that, her career as a player had been a short one - she played just couple of years of domestic cricket. She also works as a sports coordinator at Karachi's Nixor College. As for the dream of representing her country as a player, it has been realised through her daughter, Kainat, who has turned out 35 times for Pakistan since her debut in 2010 and is in Sylhet with the Asia Cup team too.

Their paths have crossed on the field, but they have been quiet affairs.

"I stood umpire in two one-day matches that Kainat was playing, she didn't bother me at all," Saleema said. "I also don't think I bothered her. We have different job scenarios. She had to perform her role, and I had to perform my role. On the ground, she is not my daughter, and I am not her mother."

That's when they are on the field together. Otherwise, Saleema is extremely proud of her daughter's achievements.

"I always tell Kainat that she is living my dream. She has to fulfil my dream of playing for Pakistan," Saleema said. "It is a very proud thing for myself, my family and friends. She gets the whole support of her father. We have never come between her dreams.

"I had tears in my eyes when she wore the Pakistan blazer for the first time. It is a great honour for every mother that her child is representing the national team."

The way things have worked out in her family makes Saleema believe that it is possible for women from her country to pursue careers in sports.

"I want to tell the families to keep supporting their daughters," she said. "Let them do what they want to do. Males don't have as many problems as females, especially in Asian countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan. If they trust their daughters, wives and mothers, they will bring honour to the family.

"I am happy that I have a husband who always supports me and Kainat. Her husband also supports her. If a father supports the daughter, she can go out and play with a big heart, that 'I have the backing of my father'. She will give her all."