As Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof stepped out of the team bus in Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval ahead of the exciting India vs Pakistan encounter, she made heads turn when she got ready to mark her comeback with Baby Fatima in her arms.
Sports is not devoid of stories comprising inspirational comebacks after motherhood. But to be able to do that as a professional cricketer in the subcontinent is different gravy. The fact that she was doing it at a mega-event like the ICC Women’s ODI Cricket World Cup 2022 made it all the more iconic.
The World Cup showed that the Pakistan women’s cricket team may still have work to do on the field but it is safe to say that they are making some right moves off-the-field when it comes to policy-making and making provisions for their contracted players.
In an interview with Scroll.in, Bismah opened up about her comeback, the work-life balance that Pakistan Cricket Board’s policy gave her, her vision for Pakistan and women’s cricket and her time at the FairBreak Invitational Tournament where she’s playing for Spirit - with Baby Fatima accompanying her, of course.
Excerpts from the email interview with Scroll.in:
Your World Cup campaign was special for reasons that go beyond the field – to be able to travel with Baby Fatima, in your first assignment since the maternity leave, leading Pakistan as the captain. Could you walk us through your feelings both, as a professional cricketer and a mother during the campaign?
I’ve travelled a lot during my 16-year career and played a lot of cricket including different World Cups but this time the feeling was a bit different. It was a little more priceless as I was returning to cricket as a mother. I had goosebumps whenever I held Fatima in my arms and went to practice or for matches.
I did this with so much pride and a mission to inspire young girls to take up any sport and to encourage their families to support their daughters to pursue their dreams. It was a great experience and I’ll keep doing that till I’m fit and my body supports me.
Like PCB introduced maternity provisions and medical perks in its central contracts, what other structural changes must ICC and Boards adopt in order to make the game more accessible for women, especially those in the sub-continent?
I’m grateful to Pakistan Cricket Board for introducing these maternity provisions and medical perks which helped me a lot to pursue my career after motherhood and to keep a balance between my career and motherhood duties. I would also like to thank the ICC and FairBreak for the way they’ve supported me to carry along my daughter Fatima with me.
I would like this to be made consistent in the future so that more female athletes get this support in the future. I’ve heard that I won’t be able to take my daughter with me for the Commonwealth Games as their policies don’t allow players to carry any family members with them. I want to highlight this and request all the concerned organizations to introduce and modify policies to help women’s sport evolve... at least for mothers who have kids to feed. Kids can’t survive without their mothers.
You returned, scored the runs for your team and dedicated them to your baby girl during a World Cup match. At some point, was there a hope in the back of your mind that it inspires female cricketers to maintain a work-life balance and dedicate their lives to both the game and family?
Yes, there was a hope. And, that celebration has a purpose of inspiring the young generation. To make them believe that anything is possible if you are determined and if you have the support with you. There was also a message for the support systems – that their support can help females do wonders even after getting married or giving birth to a baby.
As someone who has watched women’s cricket grow so much during your career, what is your vision for Pakistan cricket for it to grow further in the future?
I think things have changed a lot, as compared to the time I started playing cricket. Now, women have contracts, match fees, and a lot more domestic and international cricket to play. With all these facilities followed by the trials and programs being planned at the grassroots level, PCB is taking good steps to help women’s cricket grow. If this is made consistent I can see a bright future for Pakistan women’s cricket.
Diana Beg and Fatima Sana are some of the young talents from Pakistan playing at FairBreak – what do you think about this opportunity for them?
Diana and Fatima are two brilliant individuals and team players. At a very young age, they have got the opportunity of playing in a league like FairBreak where players from almost 33 nations are participating. It is something that will help them a lot in their future cricket as well as for the Pakistan team.
If there was one advice you had to give them based on your experience to ensure they also deliver for Pakistan for several years, what would it be?
I always ask them to stay focused and consistent with their approach and determination, grab every little opportunity of learning and grow and give their best.
What does playing in an event like FairBreak mean for you and women’s cricket in general?
To be honest, this is a great opportunity for every cricketer who is taking part in this. We’re able to meet so many different players from different countries with different mindsets and ideas. So, this is a great opportunity to learn and share each others’ experiences and (understand about) difficulties female cricketers face. Thumbs up to everyone involved in making FairBreak a huge success, it is undoubtedly a great initiative.
I think it’s very cool that there are countries like Brazil and the Philippines being represented at FairBreak. What else do you think can be done to promote the game?
As the Associate nations don’t get much of international cricket compared to the full members, I would just like this to be made consistent so that they get more and more opportunities to play with and against the top players around the world.