Focus - Cricket for All

26 Dec

Abatha HSIn 2012, The Scottish U17 girls welcomed a new member into the squad, young Abtaha Maqsood.

We caught up with Abtaha and her father, Mohammed Maqsood, during a recent squad training session and thought we would ask a few questions:

Q.  Lets start at the beginning – How old are you, where do you come from and how did you get into cricket

(Abtaha). I am currently 13 years old and I go to Eastwood High School in Glasgow.

My father has been a great cricket fan all his life and encouraged both me and my older brother, Mohsi, towards Kwik Cricket when we were at Mearns Primary school.

In the winter of 2011 we joined Poloc Cricket Club and now I play with the U13 team there. Initially we were looking for a girls’ team, but I have been made very welcome by the boys at Poloc.

Abatha Playing CricketQ.  And how did you find yourself in the U17 Squad?

(Abtaha) Keith Young, who is Junior Convener at Poloc, made contact with Kari Carswell, who is the Women and Girls Development Officer in Scotland.  He mentioned he had a new young female spinner on the U13 team – the next thing I knew I was training with the U17 squad! I played in some of the matches last year, although we couldn’t play many games due to the bad weather over the summer, and I was really proud to take my first wicket against Ireland in August.

Q. So, Dad, how do you feel about all of this?

(Mohammed) We could not be prouder of Abtaha and her achievements, or more grateful to Poloc Cricket Club for recognising her talent and providing the training and playing opportunities with the U13s. We fully support Abtaha in both her cricket and Taekwondo (in which she is a black belt). There is a lot of running around to do when you have a talented girl like Abtaha in the family!

Q A question that may be important to other Muslim families reading this – Abtaha, we notice you wear the Hijab while playing. Could you explain this for us?

(Abtaha)  Yes, certainly. A couple of years ago I went on a religious pilgrimage (known as Umara) and realised that faith was very important to me. While I was keen to play sport, I was also keen to observe the traditions of my faith. The great thing is that these two desires are not exclusive. I think from my performance you can see that my clothing choice does not affect my playing – playing as, and being recognised as, a practicing Muslim is very important to me.

(Mohammed) To be honest, when Abtaha first started to play I was very concerned that there may be a safety issue, but this seems not to be the case. As a parent I absolutely respect Abtaha’s choice – it was not one that was made for her!

The best part about this is that, in Scotland, cricket is a very ‘integrated’ sport. The girls (and the boys at Poloc) see Abtaha first and foremost as a cricketer.  It was a wonderful sight to see them all rush over to congratulate her when she took that first wicket last summer. For me, its what being ‘Scottish’ is, and should be, about. 

Q. Dream time – What would you like the future to hold?

(Mohammed)  As a life long Pakistan supporter, I would have loved to see my children play for my home country – but I appreciate that their country is Scotland. Playing for Scotland at full national level is something I would love to see both Abtaha and Moshi achieve, but only if that’s something they want for themselves as well.

Who would I support if they found themselves playing Pakistan?....that’s something only I will ever really know the answer to!

(Abtaha) Like my father, I share a dream of playing for the full national team, and I would love to do well at TaeKwondo as well.  However, my mother, Shamila, and I have another dream. To see Asian women in Scotland coming together to play indoor cricket for fun - mothers and daughters together! 

(Mohammed) I think that should be all women – not just Asian! But maybe its something positive that Abtaha and her mother can lead the way on in Glasgow. I would be very proud to see such a thing.  Thinking specifically about women’s cricket in Scotland, I would like to say that when I see women’s cricket at world level, England Australia and New Zealand are good teams and rest of the world, including the Scotland women, are more or less at the same level. I think we can achieve a good position in the world of women’s cricket.  So come on Scottish girls, we can make history!

Following on from the interview Poloc Junior Convener, Keith Young, paid tribute to the young rising star:

(Keith) As a club Poloc is rightfully proud when one its young players wins representative honours, and the club’s been fortunate enough over the years to celebrate many such successes. 

However 2012 saw a ‘first’ in this area – Poloc’s first woman internationalist: Abtaha Maqsood.  Abtaha is, first and foremost, a delightful young person.  In addition however, her attitude towards, and commitment to, cricket, and her club, are exemplary.  She is a talented young player, bowling leg-spin with no little skill and thought.  She regularly plays junior cricket at both Under 13 and 15 levels, competing with and against – and very often out-performing – boys in Western District Junior Cricket Union competitions at both age-groups.

Abtaha’s parents play an important role in supporting her cricket, and are ever-present in the crowd at junior games where she, or her brothers Mohsi and Moiz, are playing.  Abtaha’s cricket development has hopefully been assisted by coaching input at club level, but has certainly been enhanced by her involvement in the Scotland women’s development programme headed up by Kari Carswell. 

With continued dedication to practice and willingness to learn on her part, and the continued input of coaches, Abtaha has the chance to fulfill her dream of one day representing Scotland at full women’s international level.  Everyone of Poloc is proud of her and her “first for the club.”

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