Six months from that day, the world saw images of Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof carrying her six-month-old daughter Fatima as she reached New Zealand along with the rest of the Pakistan squad for the ongoing ICC Women’s World Cup.
(Bismah Maroof arriving with her baby, Fatima, for Pakistan’s match against India – ICC Twitter Photo)
Maroof is one of only a few cricketers who made a return to international cricket after having a child. Members of the Indian team were seen playing with Fatima and posing for photos with Maroof and her baby. The visuals went viral on social media platforms.
This will warm your heart in beautiful ways: India’s cricket team spending time with the baby daughter of Pakistan… https://t.co/hBzR30kK69
— Mujib Mashal (@MujMash) 1646564927000
8 CRICKETERS WHO ARE ALSO MOTHERS IN THIS EDITION OF THE WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
This edition of the Women’s World Cup is a special one in that context.
As many as eight mothers have featured in the ongoing Women’s ODI World Cup in New Zealand.
Besides Maroof, New Zealand’s Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu, South Africa’s Lizelle Lee and Masabata Klaas, West Indian Afy Fletcher and Australia’s Megan Schutt and Rachael Haynes are the other mother-cricketers at the World Cup.
BISMAH MAROOF AND THE POLICY THAT HELPED HER PLAY AGAIN FOR PAKISTAN
Stories of each of these players are equally inspiring, but coming from different geographical and cultural backgrounds makes the nature of their individual challenges different. For someone like Maroof, “it seemed all’s over” as far as cricket is concerned, after she became pregnant early last year.
Marriage and raising a family are words and responsibilities that largely don’t go well with ‘staying professional (playing professional sport) after childbirth’, especially if one happens to be a woman from the subcontinent. In such a scenario, continuing to be a sports-woman after marriage, more so after becoming a mother, is a mountain to climb amid societal and cultural pressures for most female athletes.
But in the case of Maroof, the Pakistan Cricket Board’s parental support policy was nothing less than a blessing for the 30-year-old.
“I didn’t have any clarity about my future at that time. It seemed all’s over,” Maroof had told Reuters before the World Cup.
(Indian players taking a selfie with Bismah and her daughter – Twitter Photo)
Incidentally, the PCB introduced this policy when Maroof was pregnant.
Maroof was the first beneficiary of the new PCB policy, which entitled her to 12 months of paid leave and a guaranteed contract extension. In this aspect, PCB is the leader among the four ICC Full Members in the subcontinent.
“Without the policy, I probably would’ve quit the game by now,” Reuters quoted Maroof as saying. She was at the World Cup with her mother, who took care of baby Fatima while Maroof showcased her all-round skills on the field.
(Bismah celebrating her half-century with a baby-rocking gesture – Twitter Photo)
POLICIES TO HELP AND SUPPORT ATHLETES WHO ARE ALSO MOTHERS – A WORK IN PROGRESS
It’s a different socio-cultural world if we move away from the subcontinent. But while women in sports in the West might have it better when it comes to certain things, compared to those in the subcontinent, the overall subject is probably still a work in progress globally.
Until 2019, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) didn’t offer any pregnancy leaves to its women cricketers. That was the year when Satterthwaite, who is married to team-mate Tahuhu, decided to be the carrier of their baby, Grace.
To Satterthwaite’s relief, NZC added the provision of pregnancy leaves to its Women’s Master Agreement (WMA) with the New Zealand Cricket Player Association.
Satterthwaite’s pay package, under the new new contract provision, didn’t change, and she remained a contracted player through the period of her pregnancy. She came back to lead her Women’s Big Bash League team Melbourne Renegades, and the ongoing ODI World Cup is her fourth appearance at the global event. This being on home soil made it all the more special for ‘mothers’ Satterthwaite and Tahuhu.
(New Zealand couple Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu, with their baby Grace – Twitter Photo)
THINGS ARE CHANGING
Women’s cricket in the West Indies is also on its way to incorporating a maternity policy among its statutes.
“Cricket West Indies (CWI) has developed a maternity policy which is being confirmed by its Board of Directors and will be enshrined in the players’ updated contracts in the next cycle,” the Cricket West Indies website states.
Despite the policy not being officially inked yet, Afy Fletcher owes it to CWI for standing by her.
In July last year, Fletcher became a mother to her son, Audee.
“There were a couple of scary moments…the challenges I faced at the end in the delivery room. My blood pressure was sky high. It was tough, and it took me a while to get back there (fit to play). I got assistance from the team’s trainer, physio and CWI,” said Fletcher in an interview published on the CWI website.
Fletcher’s desire to continue her professional cricket career after childbirth reflected in her activity during the pregnancy period. She continued her strength and conditioning through the early part of her pregnancy and then moved on to mentoring youngsters in Grenada as she neared the date of childbirth.
But once Audee arrived, like every emotional mother, Fletcher too was in two minds.
“Who wants to miss out on their newborn’s first everything! No mom wants that…then again, it (cricket) is something I grew up playing and I didn’t want to just end my career like this. It’s a big sacrifice (leaving her son home), but I didn’t want to end my playing days abruptly,” she said in the interview to CWI.
(Afy Fletcher – CWI Twitter Photo)
Geoff Allardice, the CEO of International Cricket Council, has welcomed such policies by various boards, besides being overwhelmed to see as many as eight mother-players participating in the ongoing World Cup.
“We would make the arrangements around the tournaments here but the ability for mothers to be able to continue to play cricket and raise young families is something that I think each of the (ICC) members is checking in their own way, and it’s good to see the progress made in that area. PTI quoted Allardice as saying.
“We’ve got a series of meetings at the end of this tournament (World Cup) back in Dubai next week, and I’m sure that will be one of the issues that will be raised in the debrief of this tournament,” Allardice added.