[EXCLUSIVE] "There's work to be done to bridge that gap and become one of the top teams": Bismah Maroof

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On April 25, 2024, Bismah Maroof, a towering figure in Pakistan's women's cricket, announced her retirement from international cricket. As a left-handed batting all-rounder, Maroof amassed 6,262 runs, making her the leading run-scorer in Pakistan women's cricket, and along the way also claimed 80 wickets in both formats. She led the team as captain and played a pivotal role in Pakistan's first World Cup victory against India in 2012, nine years before the men's team would achieve the same feat.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion, Bismah Maroof reflected on the highs and lows of her illustrious career which saw her balance motherhood with cricket, spoke about the negative perception of women's cricket in Pakistani society and looked ahead towards future goals after retirement.



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PakPassion.net: Which would you say were the best moments of your cricketing career and why?

Bismah Maroof:
When you have played cricket for more than 17 years, there are bound to be multiple best moments. There are a few that stand out for me. Winning two gold medals in the Asian Games was incredible. Beating India in India during a T20 World Cup, especially before our men's team did it, was a historic achievement. Continuing to represent Pakistan after becoming a mother is something I’m particularly proud of. Other memorable moments include beating India in the Asia Cup, clean-sweeping South Africa at home, winning our first series against New Zealand in New Zealand, and receiving the civil award Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. Every one of these moments holds a special place in my heart.


PakPassion.net: What would you say was the low point of your cricket career and why?

Bismah Maroof:
As professional cricketers, we face a lot of highs and lows during our careers. However, when I look back at the circumstances and the process through which I have played cricket, I don't see any lows in my career. I'm proud of what I've achieved as an individual and also as a team-mate. Each challenge and setback has been a learning experience that has contributed to my growth and success in the sport.


PakPassion.net: Your retirement was rather sudden, why did you feel this was the right time to retire?

Bismah Maroof:
My retirement wasn't sudden, actually. I had been thinking about it for a while and felt this was the right time. The T20 series against the West Indies was part of the planning and preparation for the World Cup, and I wanted the team combination to be made accordingly. I realized that I wouldn't be able to sustain myself until the World Cup, especially given that my little daughter is in a crucial grooming phase of her life, and she and my family need my focus now.


PakPassion.net: You have spoken in the past about all the support you have received throughout your career but what about the negatives; what did you do to block out the backlash you received when the performances were not coming?

Bismah Maroof:
I've always acknowledged the support I've received throughout my career, but it's equally important to address the negatives. Where there's support, there's always criticism as well. I took these negatives positively because there are always two ways to handle them; either you take them to heart and feel down, or you use them as motivation to push yourself and keep giving your best regardless of what others think. Many critics don't understand the process and circumstances our team has been going through, so at the end of the day, it's only us who truly know what's happening.


PakPassion.net: You didn't have any domestic experience when you played first against Netherlands, looking back tell us about the importance of having good domestic experience before debuting?

Bismah Maroof:
When I made my international debut, women's domestic cricket structures were rare worldwide. However, when I look back, I realize the importance of having a strong foundation in domestic cricket. Playing at the domestic level allows players to develop their skills, understand the dynamics of the game, and build the mental toughness needed for international cricket. It also provides invaluable experience that helps players sustain themselves at the highest level for a longer period.


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PakPassion.net: You are one of Pakistan’s all-time leading wicket-takers but in the latter part of your career you didn't play as an all-rounder. What conspired?

Bismah Maroof:
Yes, there were times when I used to bowl regularly whenever I was given the chance or the team needed it. However, later in my career, we had more spin-bowling options, and genuine ones at that. Focusing on both batting as a top-order player and bowling simultaneously definitely affects the key role that is batting. So, my bowling opportunities kept getting rarer as I prioritized my batting role.


PakPassion.net: Women's cricket has changed rapidly when it comes to having media attention. Considering you have been playing from a time when women's cricket wasn't used to being in the headlines, how did you deal with the change?

Bismah Maroof:
Well, indeed, the landscape of women's cricket media coverage has transformed remarkably over the years. Back when I started, attention was scarce, but the desire for our sport to be in the headlines was always there. Seeing our team's success and making headlines became the ultimate goal. So, adapting to the change wasn't too challenging; it was more of a natural progression. We embraced it quickly, realizing the importance of visibility for the growth of the game.


PakPassion.net: What was the best piece of advice you received during your career, who gave it and what was it?

Bismah Maroof:
The best piece of advice I received during my career came from my Baba, who always emphasized honesty and hard work. He said, 'Be honest with your profession or whatever you do, wherever you go, and rely on nothing other than honesty and hard work because these two things are key to success and whatever you want to achieve.' It has helped me tremendously. Alhamdulillah!


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PakPassion.net: Motherhood and cricket, how did you balance this and was the support structure there for you?

Bismah Maroof:
Balancing motherhood with professional cricket has been challenging, but I have been able to do it with the help of my family, friends, and support system. I decided to continue playing professional cricket after becoming a mother because I believe that it is essential to follow your passion and do what makes you happy. I have received both personal and professional support. It's obviously extremely challenging when you're representing your country and trying to be a good wife, daughter-in-law, and mother at the same time. Pakistan Cricket Board's parental policy has been game-changing, and the support from my family, especially my Baba Mama and my husband, made it quite easy for me. Allah has been super great to me while I did all these things together. I hope this will inspire a lot of young girls and their families.


PakPassion.net: Many in Pakistan look down upon women’s cricket, what needs to change to alter that mindset?

Bismah Maroof:
I believe the mindset is already shifting positively towards women's cricket in Pakistan. We are witnessing growing support from many quarters, which is incredibly encouraging. To further alter this mindset, it's crucial to continue promoting the visibility of women's cricket through media coverage, grassroots initiatives, and educational programs. Encouraging participation at the grassroots level, providing equal opportunities for training and development, and celebrating the achievements of female cricketers can all contribute to changing perceptions. Additionally, fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect within the cricket community can help break down barriers and encourage greater acceptance and appreciation of women's cricket.


PakPassion.net: Where do you feel women's cricket in Pakistan sits at the moment?

Bismah Maroof:
Women's cricket in Pakistan has seen progress, evident in victories like beating India in the last Asia Cup, clean-sweeping South Africa in T20Is at home, and winning our first T20 series against New Zealand in New Zealand. However, compared to top teams, we still have a way to go in terms of performance, development, infrastructure, facilities, and exposure. There's work to be done to bridge that gap and become one of the top teams.


PakPassion.net: Looking back at your playing career, any regrets, anything you would have done differently?

Bismah Maroof:
Looking back at my playing career, to be honest, there are no such regrets. As I've mentioned before, the process and the circumstances I've played my cricket through have shaped me. I am proud of my journey representing Pakistan at the highest level and the honour of leading the Pakistan team. Every match, every challenge, and every setback contributed to my growth as a cricketer and as a person. Reflecting on my career, I feel a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunities, the lessons learned, and the memories made along the way. As a professional, I understand that success isn't just about wins and losses, but about the resilience, determination, and character developed through the journey. At the end of it all, I am grateful for the chance to have lived my dream and to have left a mark on the sport I love.


PakPassion.net: What’s the future hold for you, coaching, commentary or do you have something else in mind away from cricket?

Bismah Maroof:
I haven't decided anything yet. Right now, my priority is my daughter and family. While I've been approached by a few television channels for the upcoming Men's T20 World Cup transmission, I don't think I'll be pursuing any such activities at the moment. Let's see what the future holds after some quality family time.
 
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She is a very strong woman, the way she kept her baby with her and still showed 100% commitment to the team is quite remarkable.

She has a good cricketing brain and I am sure she can do well if PCB offers her any coaching job for the Pak women's team.
 
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She is the face of Pakistan women's cricket. As she said when she debuted for Pakistan, women's domestic cricket structures were rare worldwide and she went on to become one of the legendary cricketers of Pakistan women's cricket. One more interesting record she has, similar to Misbah ul Haq is having the most ODI runs without scoring a century.
 
I get the impression that some of the current Pakistani women cricketers have very high opinions of themselves despite their mediocrity.
 
Pakistan women's struggles continue against England.

In the T20I format:

Played 18
Won 1
Lost 17

In the ODI format:

Played 13
Won 0
Lost 12
No Result 1
 
I get the impression that some of the current Pakistani women cricketers have very high opinions of themselves despite their mediocrity.

It starts with the coaching staff, the likes of Taufeeq Umar, Mohtashim Rasheed, Salim Jaffar have been around womens cricket forever with no results.
 
Pakistan women's cricket is in pretty bad shape and I don't think anybody can turn the game around for them soon. The gap Bismah is talking about is gonna widen more and more and there is nothing we can do about it. No world-class coach can solve this in a couple of years. It might take a decade to form a structure that can pave the way for something better for these women.

SO far, the only news we hear is that Pak women lost the game.
 
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To be fair, much the same could be said of their male counterparts ……
Absolutely.

Admired a bit too much which goes to their head and makes them think they are better than what they actually are.
 
It starts with the coaching staff, the likes of Taufeeq Umar, Mohtashim Rasheed, Salim Jaffar have been around womens cricket forever with no results.
I believe a coach like Dalton could be a blessing for our women team.
 
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