Australia won by seven wickets in their second match at the ICC Women’s ODI Cricket World Cup against Pakistan at the Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, to reach the top of the points table with two wins in as many games so far. But their victory could have been simpler had Bismah Maroof not played a captain’s knock.
Having lost the toss and asked to bat first, the captain scored 78* off 122 and built a 99-run partnership with Aliya Riaz (53), to post a 191-run target for Australia. Bismah, who was the first Pakistani player to score a half-century against Australia back in August 2014, went past the landmark again today and in the process registered the second highest individual score by a Pakistani batter in the tournament’s history.
In what was only her second One-Day International after a maternity leave, the highlight of the innings remained the cradle celebration by Bismah after she brought up her half-century. She dedicated the knock by gesturing towards her daughter Fatima in the dressing room, who has become a bit of a fan-favourite in the dressing room and social media since her arrival in New Zealand.
After the team’s opener against India, several videos of players from the Indian team along with Bismah and her daughter went viral on social media. Addressing the post-match press conference, she spoke about playing her first international match since the maternity break and leading the side in the World Cup.
“It was a very different feeling and coming back in a World Cup and playing a match. I was a bit emotional and my mother and my daughter is there,” said Bismah.
“It was a special moment for me and I really want to make it count – this tournament- because they both are here.”
The cricketing world has lauded Bismah’s inspiring return to to the field and also Pakistan Cricket Board’s parental policy that allows players, both men and women, to take paid time off during pregnancy and after the birth of a child.
In May last year, the PCB announced that men would be granted 30 days of paid leave, while women can get up to 12 months and called upon all cricket administrators to adopt the policy. The scheme became instantly available to all players and it began with Bismah, who took an indefinite break to prepare for motherhood.
As per one of the provisions in the policy that allows the player to travel with a support person of her choice to assist in caring for her infant child, Bismah is being accompanied by her mother in New Zealand. The two have been spotted either in the team bus, in the dressing room or interacting with players from other teams.
Before the start of Pakistan’s campaign at the World Cup, Bismah had acknowledged the support she was offered and added that it helped her to return to the game smoothly.
She said: “The introduction of the maternal policy has made the game more inclusive for women. It is a great initiative, which will definitely see more girls follow their passion. With my daughter, Fatima, in the picture, I am excited to see how the next couple of months will pan out.”
Corrections: The article has been updated to “Bismah, who was the first Pakistani player to score a half-century against Australia back in August 2014”