Changemakers in the fitness and wellness industries tell us how theyre transforming their communities, from advocating for diversity to advocating for body acceptance, and more. In this interview, Scottish cricketer Abtaha Maqsood discusses her professional cricket journey and how The Hundred might transform everything.
Cricket has been a part of Abtaha Maqsoods' world since she can remember. She goes from playing in the garden with her brothers to playing on some of the most spectacular pitches and wickets around. By 11 she had made her U17s debut for Scotland, playing against Uganda. At 15 she was an aflag-bearer for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and recently had a mural painted in her honour at a primary school.
The Hundred is a new (read: simpler, faster) cricket tournament that started in 2021, which was conceived with the intention of attracting a wider audience to the sport. Each team bats for 100 balls, and the team with the most runs wins, essentially. As is returning this year once more.
Abtaha Maqsood is hailed as the first UK hijab-wearing cricketer. She tells me that when I was younger, I struggled to find someone who I could emulate and aspire to be. I hope I can be that person for younger generations.
What motivated you to pursue cricket? How did you get involved in the game as a Muslim woman?
When I was very young, my dad introduced me to cricket. He is from Pakistan so he loved cricket growing up and brought that love back to Scotland with him, where he taught me and my brothers all the basics.
I asked my parents to find me a girls team in Glasgow, but they couldnt find one. I ended up playing junior cricket with a team full of boys, which was quite daunting for a kid, but I learned a lot from the experience and fell in love with the sport even more.
What was the feeling like to be called up to Birmingham Phoenix, and then, more recently, to have a mural dedicated to you at a local Birmingham primary school?
I was unconcerned about this call at the time. I was also surprised to see that a team in The Hundred wanted to sign me, but also so eager to get going. Last year, I loved every minute of being a part of Birmingham Phoenix, and I am looking forward to doing it all over again. The atmosphere at Edgbaston [home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club] was just fantastic.
When I heard that there would be a mural of me in Birmingham, it felt amazing to see it when it was unveiled. It was such a great day talking to the pupils at Marlborough Primary School about their hopes and dreams.
When you were growing up and navigating the cricket world, what challenges or obstacles faced you?
I grew up with fantastic parents who always encouraged me to be the best cricketer I could be, no matter what others thought or said. I have seen various comments on social media that have been quite negative, including some that are Islamophobic.
How have you seen the sport develop in the last few years?
Women's cricket has changed dramatically since I began playing cricket professionally. I can't wait to see where this growth takes us next in the coming years. The hundredred has boosted my confidence in the women's game as well as in the big stadiums in England.
Despite widespread racism allegations in recent weeks, what do you expect to see in the sport in the next five years?
I want to see cricket be as open as possible. We need to ensure it's open to everyone, which is what The Hundred is attempting to achieve. I would like to see more and more people from different backgrounds participate in the sport, from grassroots to professional level.
What advice do you have for young Muslim girls who want to pursue cricket or sport in general?
Never give up. There will always be narrow-minded individuals who will tell you that you can't do the sport you love, but these individuals are in the minority. There are many more people out there who will support you and encourage you to pursue your passions in sport.
Every womens match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports, with 16 games to be broadcast live on BBC and BBC iPlayer, including both finals.