In a very welcome update in policies, the Pakistan Cricket Board has introduced its new Parental Support Policy. The policy is intended to motivate and support athletes in their journey to parenthood, through pregnancy and after birth, accommodating both male and female athletes under its contracts.
As part of a global trend that has seen industry and economy-wide reforms in parental support policies, the PCB has taken a much awaited step. Athletes live a tough life when viewed through the lens of parenthood, their strict training schedules and year-long playing schedules leave little room for them to be able to plan parenthood, though several do have the aspirations.
As part of the news set of policies, women cricketers will be entitled to yearlong paid maternity leave, in addition to the option of switching to a non-playing role as they approach their maternity leave. They will be guaranteed a contract for the following year when leaving for maternity leave and when they return, the board will provide physical training and support to rehabilitate them post-childbirth. Male cricketers are now allowed concessions, and will be entitled to a month long paid paternity leave.
Only the Australian and New Zealand cricket boards have such robust parental leave policies, and other boards are said to be working on their own policies.
Just last week, Pakistan team captain Bismah Maroof announced her indefinite maternity leave.
The PCB was said to be in the process of working up the newly announced provisions at the time. Today, as the news is announced, Maroof is the first cricketer to benefit from the new policies.
“The PCB has a duty of care towards its cricketers and at every turn it has taken measures to support them. In this relation, it is appropriate that we have a player-friendly parental support policy so that our professional cricketers can feel fully supported during an important stage in their lives, without worrying about their careers," PCB Chief Executive Wasim Khan said in a press release.
“To have this policy for our women cricketers was even more significant. Women play a pivotal role in the development of a society and our women cricketers have brought us laurels and recognition at the world stage," he said.
“Now that we have maternity leave policy, I am hopeful that it will attract more women and girls to take up the sport as this will help them strike the crucial work-life balance.”
The news was very well received by fans of the team and sport alike, with global appreciation heading PCB's way. Among the most notable appreciations came from cricket statistician Mazher Arshad.
Cricket journalist Zainab Abbas also took note of the announcement, and celebrated what she called a "fantastic initiative".
Former national team captain Sana Mir congratulated all those involved.
Former captain and current chief selector Urooj Mumtaz Khan called the move a huge stride forward.
Ex-cricketer and women team's chief selector Jalal-ud-Din was also full of praises for the move.
Ex-Australian cricketers Lisa Sthalekar and Mel Jones also welcomed the move.
Leaves due to parental responsibilities have been a concern in cricket for a while, as athletes give their reproductive years to the sport despite their own personal ambitions for a family. When Indian men's cricket captain Virat Kohli returned from his tour of Australia mid-series for the birth of his child earlier this year, there were conflicting opinions in India. Some understood the cause, and backed Kohli's decision to return, while others questioned how he could turn away from his national responsibilities like that, some even terming his actions 'un-patriotic'.
We are glad the PCB made this decision and hope to see boards around the world follow suit.