Saba, the veteran striker and former captain, will be awarded with the prestigious Arjuna award in Delhi on Saturday. The 28-year-old made it to the national squad in 2000 with the U-18 AHF Cup and has never looked back since then.
"This has been the most special year in my life as I was blessed with a baby a few days back and now am getting Arjuna award for hockey. What could be more special for a woman," Saba said in a chat. "I never expected to come such a long way as it has been 18 years' journey with the hockey stick. Getting this award is also an encouraging sign for the budding hockey players from the small state of Chhattisgarh," she said.
Sharing some of her earlier memories, she said, "In 1994, I picked the hockey stick for the first time seeing as I saw some boys, who played in my locality Kelabadi in Durg town and eventually I started playing with them."
Saba has scored 92 goals in 200 matches
Daughter of a muezzin in a mosque, Saba is the youngest of four siblings. She used to wake up at 6am to play hockey. Although she was not good at studies, she never let her passion for hockey take a back seat.
"Earning two meals was not an easy task for my family at that time. I remember once my mother sold some house items to buy a pair of shoes for me," she said. "My father used to tell me that a smooth sea never makes a good mariner and following the same lesson I moved ahead."
In her 13-year-long international career, she has scored 92 goals in 200 matches. Saba came into the limelight as the youngest of all participants in hockey competition in the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games. She has played in three Asian Games, four Asia Cups, Commonwealth Games, junior world cups and many other international hockey events.