Bismah Maroof, the captain of Pakistan women's national cricket team, is all the cricketing world could talk about after Pakistan's match against India during the ICC Women's World Cup on Sunday. Maroof's baby daughter became the centre of an endearing moment between teams India and Pakistan after little Fatima made a public appearance in her mother's arms post match.
We caught our first glimpse of little Fatima after Maroof and the team arrived at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, ahead of their match against India.
Thankfully, that wasn't the last we saw of Maroof's daughter. She reappeared in front of the cameras after her mother brought her out post match, and the Indian cricket team just couldn't get enough of her.
Many stood around Maroof and tried to grab little Fatima's attention. For a few moments, the captain's daughter seemed to have brought both teams together as rivalries (and political animosities) were put aside. This wholesome bonding moment between India and Pakistan didn't go unnoticed on the internet.
"What a photo," commented one user on Twitter. "India players with Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof and her kid after the World Cup game..."
"This will warm your heart in beautiful ways," tweeted another user.
Many netizens appreciated how the moment cemented Maroof's legacy as an athlete determined to thrive as mother as well without having to choose one over the other — a feat that stands as a source of inspiration for other women.
"Bismah Maroof's legacy will go far beyond her achievements on the field. In a society that often tells women to make choices between career and family, she's showing that you can have both! Such an inspiring person," read a tweet.
"In a society where women have to choose one in career and family, Bismah Maroof showing that both can be done. Very inspiring!" said one user.
Maroof became a mother last year in August, 2021. In an interview to Reuters earlier this month, she talked about spearheading Pakistan's campaign at the World Cup in New Zealand after becoming a mother, a comeback she hopes will inspire female cricketers in her homeland and beyond.
Thirty-year-old Maroof said she owes her return to the parental support policy introduced by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) last year. “I didn't have any clarity about my future at that time. It seemed all's over,” Maroof said. “Then I spoke to the PCB management and (coach) David Hemp. They told me 'You can come back. Players in Australia, New Zealand and England do come back' (from motherhood).”
Maroof was the first beneficiary of the new PCB policy which entitled her to 12 months of paid maternity leave and a guaranteed contract extension. She would also have a support person — her mother — in New Zealand to help look after her child so she can focus on cricket.
“Without the policy, I probably would've quit the game by now,” said the batting all-rounder. “Now I can travel with my daughter, and with my mother around, I can focus on cricket knowing my kid is in safe hands."
Well, there's no denying it. Maroof's commitment to nailing both motherhood and cricket is truly an inspiration for not just women in sports but also women in other careers and pursuits, especially in Pakistan, a country where women often have to quit their jobs after becoming mothers because of societal pressure or lack of institutional support. With the right policies and support system in place, women can carry their careers alongside motherhood — and Maroof is testament to that.
While many are cheering on Maroof for "doing it all", we hope this support continues even if the captain chooses to focus on her daughter before her career. Making that choice will not make the Maroof any less of the brilliant athlete she already is.