When you think of an India-Pakistan cricket match, what feelings come to your mind? Excitement? Anger? Tension? Hostility? How about a sense of bonding, but not just with your own team? No sport teaches us to be hostile, but sadly, that is what cricket matches, especially between the two neighbouring countries have been reduced to. Indian women cricketers, however, challenged this narrative of uncompromising competitiveness at the ongoing World Cup.
Team India played arch-rivals Pakistan on Sunday at the ongoing Women’s ODI World Cup. While the Women in Blue won the match by 107 runs, it was Pakistan’s captain Bismah Maroof who stole the show alongside her daughter Fatima. Maroof arrived to play the high-profile game, accompanied by her young daughter – a sight we are yet to see in men’s game. “With a kid around, it’s a different energy in the team, everyone feels relaxed. When you’re too focussed on one thing, it builds pressure on you. When you’re around a kid, all your unnecessary worries disappear,” said the captain of the rival team after the match.
After the match many players from team India were seen playing with Maroof’s daughter, even posing for a selfie with the young one. The video of these players from a rival team fussing over a toddler, trying to get her attention, with smiles all around made for such an iconic moment. How often do you see such an endorsement of parenthood and harmony on a cricket field?
Even legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t help but praise the women in blue and green. “What a lovely moment! Cricket has boundaries on the field, but it breaks them all off the field. Sport unites!” he tweeted. Indeed, sport unites us, but it is we who let politics get the better of us and use sport as a device to hate and compete with each other, going against the grain of the game.
Bismah Maroof daughter video: Sport and parenting can coexist
One wonders, what role does gender play here. Childcare is seen as primarily a woman’s duty, thus we applaud women who strike a balance between work and motherhood, carrying their kids to work. A Bismah Maroof will be celebrated for bringing her daughter along during one of the most important matches her team will play at the ongoing tournament, but will a Virat Kohli be applauded if he does the same? Have we ever seen Dhoni, or Tendulkar carry their kid to the stadium, unaccompanied by their partner, ask support staff to hold their child while they play, let alone have an entire bunch of players from the opposite team fawn over the child?
Is it possible that women have the luxury to do so, because of their gender, and sadly because women’s cricket still isn’t taken seriously? Does full public attention towards their men, the idea of sport being for those who are “macho” actually keep men from bonding, cuddling their kids or even downright parenting while out to play a match?
Now there is a flip side to this argument. Many might ask, do kids even belong on the field? Men or women, why must any parent have to bring their child to work? Here’s the deal – kids do belong on cricket fields and at workplaces because they make us kinder, happier and more empathetic. The future belongs to them, so the world that we are shaping will be the one inhabited by them. If their presence encourages us to make cricket matches less tense or bring two teams who are only known for bitter rivalry together, leads to happier and lighter moments during a game, then their presence is in fact essential.
Bismaah Maroof, her daughter and the Indian cricket team have proved, as pointed by Tendulkar, that sport unites us and boundaries shouldn’t have to exist beyond the playing field, all it takes is a cute kid.
Views expressed are the author’s own.