Cricket is much more than a sport in South Asia, and Pakistan is no exception. What happens on the field affects more than just the 22 players. It has the potential to overshadow everything else in the country.
Women’s cricket is taking center stage in Pakistan, particularly since the arrival of new chairman Ramiz Raja, who has emphasized the importance of having a pool of more than 130 players rather than just 30.
Unlike in the past, where developments in women’s cricket went unnoticed, things have changed for the better, and the ODI series against the mighty West Indies will mark the start of a new journey under the new leadership.
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The Caribbean team will face the home team in three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) from November 8 to 14, 2021, at the National Stadium in Karachi. Any team that has been around for a while and is playing in their home conditions will start on an equal footing, but that may not be the case in the upcoming series.
Pakistan will be underdogs against a team that is more reliant on hard-hitting than traditional stroke-play, as evidenced by the fact that the Windies have won 21 of the 30 matches played between the sides, while the Women-in-Green has won only nine.
Despite those numbers, former all-rounder Marina Iqbal expressed optimism about the team’s chances to Bol News, saying that they can beat any opposition on any given day.
“Our women’s team is just as unpredictable as our men’s team,” she said. “I suppose it has something to do with the way we are as a country.” On some days, we are excellent, and we can truly beat anyone in any condition, but on others, you are left scratching your head, wondering where things went wrong. We have defeated strong teams in the past, including the West Indies, and there is no reason to believe we cannot do so again.”
Speaking about the competition’s impact on women’s cricket in Pakistan, the 34-year-old, who represented the national team in 36 ODIs and 42 T20Is, scoring 776 runs and taking 10 wickets, believes things are moving in the right direction.
“See, the reality is that things have improved in women’s cricket in recent years,” Marina said. “However, I agree that there is much room for improvement.” To say that things haven’t improved since I was playing for Pakistan would be incorrect. Things are much better now, and they’ve improved significantly over the last few years.”
“One thing that a lot of people have complained about was that the sides were unbalanced, and you can’t argue with that,” she continued. However, you must delve a little deeper to comprehend what occurred and why it occurred. Because the player pool was small, this plan called for three teams to compete in a tournament similar to the One-Day Cup. We don’t have a club that is actively involved in women’s cricket, so there is no nursery for the players to come across.
“To overcome that obstacle, we launched the Skills 2 Shine program, in which young players showcased their talent and were selected for the squad based on their performances.”That’s how we ended up increasing the player pool, but one thing we can’t deny is that we live in a Covid-affected world, and it had a significant impact on the things we planned as well. There were more events planned for these young players to show off their skills, but things do not always go as planned.” Marina served on the management committee as an advisor for the recently concluded Pakistan Women’s One Day Cup 2021-22.
When discussing the positive aspects of the Women’s One Day Cup, the Quetta-born named young Anoosha Nasir as one of the future stars.
“There are a lot of positives that can be taken away from such a competition,” she said. “In Anooshay, we found a really intelligent young bowler, and she wasn’t the only one.” There were also other young people present. One of the most pleasing aspects was the performance of veterans such as Nida Dar, Aliya Riaz, and Javeria Khan. They made certain that their best selves were on display during the matches.”
The direction of women’s cricket in Pakistan has always been questioned, with results not justifying the effort and investment made in both bilateral series and mega-events. Marina, while admitting that the team’s performance has been subpar, stated that comparisons to other teams such as Australia, England, and India are unjustified.
“There is some substance to the criticism of women’s cricket,” she continued. “However, we must not forget that girls here have never had access to the same facilities that players on other teams have had in the past.” We cannot expect our players to perform at the same level as Australian, English, and Indian cricketers. We need to be realistic about what we expect, so we can figure out where we’re going wrong. But, having said that, I recognize that there is a lot of work to be done, and I believe that we will get there gradually but steadily.”
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