Grand Slam-winning Indian tennis star Sania Mirza on Monday announced that she is pregnant, but did not say if this meant the end of her injury-prone career.
Mirza and her husband, Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik, posted a picture on their Twitter accounts of a baby vest and a feeding bottle between two T-shirts bearing their names.
It was accompanied by the hashtag #BabyMirzaMalik. Bollywood actor Aamir Khan tweeted back his “congratulations”.
The three-time Grand Slam doubles winner had said earlier this month that any child she had would bear the Mirza-Malik surname and that Shoaib wanted a daughter.
The 31-year-old has been sidelined since October with a knee injury. She has slipped from number one in the world doubles ranking – the first for an Indian woman – to 24.
Mirza has won at least one medal at every Asian Games since 2006 and expressed hope in January of competing in this year’s event in Indonesia.
Mirza in 2005 became the first Indian to win a WTA tournament singles title. She reached the fourth round of the US Open in the same year, and by 2007 was among the women’s top 30.
But a wrist injury ended her singles dream and she focused on doubles tennis. A partnership with Swiss great Martina Hingis produced three Grand Slam titles.
Pakistan players attended a military parade at the Wagah border with India “to get motivation” ahead of their tour of Ireland and England that starts this month.
The 16-member squad fly early on Monday and after two side games against county teams in England will play a one-off Test against Ireland at Dublin May 11-15. They then face a formidable England side in two Tests at Lord’s (May 24-28) and Leeds (June 1-5).
But before leaving for the tour, Pakistan players watched the “lowering of the flags” ceremony at the Wagah border that involves elaborate “performances” from security forces of both countries.
“We are going on an important tour. When you go there (Wagah), you get motivation when you see the parade. That is why we decided to go there,” captain Sarfraz Ahmed said on Saturday.
The 30-year-old said his players were eager to do well.
“Our hopes are very high and I am very optimistic with these new boys,” he said after a short training camp in Lahore. “The best thing about these players is that they are willing to perform well at the bigger platform.”
Pakistan will be without senior batsmen Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq who helped them level a four-match series 2-2 against England in 2016. Both retired in May last year.
“Whenever there is a tour of England the conditions are considered as tough. On our previous tour in 2016 we played matches in June but this year we are starting a bit earlier so obviously it will be difficult.
“We are obviously missing our two senior players and we have an inexperienced side,” said Sarfraz of his team which has five players awaiting their Test debut.
Openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq, batsman Usman Salahuddin and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf have featured in limited over matches but not in the five-day format.
Middle-order batsman Saad Ali was picked for the national team for the first time after notching 957 runs — the most in the last domestic season.
Pakistan will miss ace leg-spinner Yasir Shah, ruled out of the tours with a hip injury.
“If Yasir was fit he would have been an automatic selection but we still got good spinners and Shadab Khan is the best option,” said Sarfraz of the 19-year-old who has played just one Test.
While Ireland are playing their inaugural Test after being accorded the status just last year, Sarfraz said they would also be tough opponents.
“They are a strong team with most of their players regularly playing in county cricket in England, so I am expecting a good competitive match against them.”
Former Pakistan leg-spinner and chief selector Abdul Qadir launched a scathing attack on Pakistan management and head coach Mickey Arthur in particular for its selection policies, calling the South African an “incompetent white man”.
Pakistan picked five uncapped players for the Test tour of England, overlooking batsman Fawad Alam who has been prolific in first-class cricket for years. There was no place for veteran left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz as well, whose work ethic was criticised by Arthur.
Speaking to Geo TV, Qadir launched a tirade against Arthur, saying: “You have handed over the reins to an incompetent white man who has not played Test cricket himself.
“Who is Mickey Arthur? He is someone who was kicked out by South Africa and Australia. Mickey Arthur is the one who ruined Shane Watson’s cricket. Ruined the cricket of Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal. Now he is after Wahab Riaz.
“If you hire such incompetent people… they are playing with our cricket. They are mistreating our star players. And those who perform in domestic cricket are not getting picked.”
Qadir, however, did not dwell much upon the limited overs performance of Pakistan under Arthur. The Men in Green are the No1 T20 side in the world and holders of the Champions Trophy.
But the legendary leg-spinner said while Pakistan’s performance in white ball cricket is praiseworthy, the state of Test cricket is not good following a ‘home’ series defeat to Sri Lanka. Pakistan are currently ranked seventh in Test cricket.
“Looks like we are making Test team from T20s. It’s unfortunate. Then might as well end the (domestic) Quaid-e-Azam trophy,” he added.
“The sent players to T10 League (in UAE). They took those players out of first-class cricket and took $400,000 for it. So what is left? What will youngsters learn? Test cricket is at the bottom. I praise the performance in T20s. But if you start making Test teams out of T20 cricket, it’s not right.”
Pakistan chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq had earlier stated that the Test team for the tour of England was picked keeping next year’s World Cup in mind.