News“A Big Missed Opportunity” – Bismah on Scrapping Women’s League

“A Big Missed Opportunity” – Bismah on Scrapping Women’s League

Back in 2021, when Ramiz Raja took over as chairperson of the Pakistan Cricket Board, he floated the idea of launching Asia’s first-ever women’s T20 league in Pakistan. Had the plan materialized, it would have given a major boost to the women’s cricket scene in Pakistan. However, the constant changes at the top saw the plan being shelved altogether.

In October 2022, the PCB announced their plans to run a four-team women’s league concurrently with the Pakistan Super League’s 2023 edition, but the Najam Sethi-led ad-hoc management committee, who took over the affairs from Raja shortly after the announcement, pushed it forward to September.

Sethi’s committee, however, instead ended up organizing three exhibition matches played between sides led by Bismah Maroof and Nida Dar. These games were packaged as a soft launch for the impending league and were deemed successful as they brought the women’s game to the limelight and provided the local talent the much-desired exposure of rubbing shoulders with some of the top international cricketers from around the world. Renowned cricketers such as Danni Wyatt, Maia Bouchier, Tammy Beaumont, Laura Wolvaardt, Lea Tahuhu, and Chamari Athapaththu made the two squads.

The summer of 2023 saw another change of guard with another ad-hoc committee, this time led by Zaka Ashraf, which completely shelved the plans for the women’s league and also scrapped the idea of the exhibition matches altogether.

“It was very disheartening,” Bismah, who retired from international cricket last week, told Grassroots Cricket in an exclusive interview. “The process had begun, and we could see the good results that we got from it [the three exhibition matches]. Our domestic players got to share the dressing room with players from around the world and learn from their experience. Our international players got to learn, too, as they understood the mindset of players from around the world by observing how they carry themselves on the field and how they read the game.

“I was captain of a side, and I used to have discussions with the foreign players. Their input was crucial for me, and I learned a lot. If I were getting to learn so much, you can imagine how much our girls learned from those matches.

“It is a big missed opportunity. We had just started to grow. Had we continued with it on a regular basis, it would have benefitted women’s cricket a lot.”

In a wide-ranging interview, the former Pakistan captain, who boasts the most number of runs for Pakistan in ODIs and T20Is, highlighted the reasons that have resulted in the team’s disappointing on-field returns.

When Grassroots Cricket interviewed Bismah, Pakistan had lost the first three of the five T20Is to the West Indies in Karachi after being on the end of a 3-0 ODI series sweep.

In answer to a question on what kept women’s cricketers from keeping up with their counterparts from around the world, Bismah said: “… another reason we have been unable to evolve is that we don’t play leagues as much as players around the world. It upskills a player, transforms a person’s style of play, and gives a lot of confidence.

“It is very unfortunate that our players have not been able to go to these leagues and have not been able to get that experience and confidence. It is a big setback for our players.”

The complete interview will be available on Grassroots Cricket’s YouTube channel on Saturday.

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