Pakistan's Women's Cricket Team Has Its Own Shoaib Akhtar. This Is Her Inspiring Story

By Rameen Shakil | 28 Apr, 2018

Pakistan women’s cricket team has been charting newer territories and finding newer ways to make us proud every single day.


Meet Maham Tariq, a fast bowler in Pakistan’s women’s cricket team

Maham, a right-arm fast-bowler began her professional career by the age of 13. Her passion, like many professional cricketers in Pakistan, had sprung from street cricket and taped balls.



Coming from a conservative Pakistani family, her journey has not been an easy one

“My daadi had an issue with my playing cricket in shorts with boys on the street. I must have been in the fifth or sixth standard when she told me to quit cricket. There did come a time when I had to sit at home for two to three days. But then I went to her and told her that I couldn’t live like this. I used to climb over our car or upon our gate to watch the boys play. I was only allowed to go back to playing on the street after I told her that I would play in trousers.”



Maham’s uncle, Saeed Azad, passed on his cricket experience to Maham 

Azad first took Maham to Zaheer Abbas Cricket Academy at the National Stadium Karachi for competitive training. Azad, who played for the National Bank of Pakistan, had represented Pakistan in four One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and knew all about the hard-core training that Maham needed to succeed at a professional level. Soon, Maham’s hard work paid off as everyone started to notice her.

“I trained very hard. I used to bowl 120 balls in a day. Even boys don’t train that hard. Now, it feels great when everybody, including the Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Najam Sethi introduces me as the fastest bowler.… I was the first woman to start bowling bouncers in Pakistan. The girls were getting hit on their helmets and necks, which added to the terror. Everyone started recognizing me as the fastest bowler”, Maham shared.



However, as Maham started receiving attention from people around her, societal norms kicked in and her relatives threatened to boycott her family if she continued playing cricket

Initially, her immediate family also wanted her to pursue education instead of cricket. They encouraged her to become a doctor or an engineer When the accusations hit, her father stood up for her passion.

Maham had always been very close to her father. “She had it in her to make it to the top,” says Tariq Rafiq, Maham’s father. “I did not care what anyone said. Our relatives told me cricket was just a waste of time and that she should become a doctor or engineer instead. But I knew she had talent. I used to take her to the grounds for practice. She had such great stamina that one day her coach told me that she won’t get tired if I tie her to the back of a car and make her run all over the city.”



However, the over-training back-fired and Maham sprained her back

“I was only 17 [at the time of the injury]. I was in the camp for the tour of Sharjah and I felt pain in my back. An MRI scan revealed that my L4 and L5 were fractured,” she says. “I was on bed rest for six months during which I couldn’t do anything. I was not allowed to walk or jog. It was very frustrating and of course, such a situation also throws you into depression,” she says while adding that it was hard to stay away from cricket. “I was the fastest bowler [in the Pakistani side] at the time. Later, I had to regain that title, and I did. But, it took quite an effort as my pace took a dip and I was advised to change my action, which I did not do, and the coaches turned against me because of that.”



She was told by the doctors that she had to either completely abandon cricket or leave fast bowling

Maham had just returned from her first-ever tour with the national team when she learned that due to the two severe stress fractures in her back, she would have to leave the Pakistan women’s cricket team. Her short career, which started in Australia in 2014 had come to a break for one and a half year.

However, Maham held on to the last piece of hope she had left and continued to train herself.


“I was specially called to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) for rehab, but I came back to Karachi. I could not understand what was happening at the time. I was my own coach after that. I assessed myself. There’s a ground near my house. When I used to feel blue or frustrated, I would go there at night to sit or run in the dark. There would be no one around other than, maybe, stray dogs.”


After a couple of brilliant performances in the domestic circuit and a shining performance at the national camp, she was welcomed back when the Pakistan Women toured England in 2016

“I was the highest wicket-taker in the next domestic season. Then I took 16 wickets in eight matches during a Pakistan camp. From there I was named after the England tour. It was difficult for me to return to the national side as my place had already been taken by someone else.

“The mantra to success in sports is to keep things simple and train hard. I followed it,” she says. “After my injury, it was very difficult to convince selectors about my fitness. If I even placed my hand on my back despite bowling well, they used to think that I had hurt myself again,” recalls Maham.



We asked Maham what advice she would give to parents with kids who are into sports and here’s what she said

“If your children want to go into sports, encourage them. That’s the best thing you can do for them as guardians. I wouldn’t have been able to get this far without my father supporting me at every corner. The sports range for girls in Pakistan is very small. Very few people know about women’s sports. Even though I’m happy that a lot of schools now encourage girls to play basketball, football, and cricket with the boys, there just aren’t enough girls who try out on a professional level. Now, there are lots of safe academies available for girls who want to train. Search for them! It’s really all about passion and dedication.”



Currently, Maham trains herself for almost 8-10 hours a day and has big dreams

“I have a lot of plans. Along with completing my education, my ultimate goal is to be the fastest bowler in the world. I am working hard. It also depends on how much international exposure I get. My aim is to perform at levels that are higher than the set benchmarks on our side.”


Honestly, dedication hou tou aisi

From breaking past the shackles of society to bouncing back after a life-changing injury, Maham has really proved that hard work can get you places. All you need to do is believe in yourself and constantly push yourself to do better.

We’re so inspired by our home-girl bringing fame to Pakistan’s name. Can’t wait for her to achieve the name of the fastest bowler in the world.


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