21-year-old dentistry student and Scotland international Abtaha Maqsood will make her debut in the English domestic circuit this summer as she dons the orange stripes for Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred.
With a T20I average with the ball of just 10.84, she’ll be one to watch this summer in this newer shortened form of the game.
Maqsood started her cricket story as an eleven-year-old at Pollock Cricket Club in Glasgow and it wasn’t long before she made her mark in the Scotland age groups playing in the Under 17s at the age of just 12 years old. Fast forward two years, the youngster made her senior Scotland debut at 14, establishing herself as a top bowling option for the past seven years. In T20I, the leg break bowler has taken 19 wickets in 14 innings with best figures of 3/8.
‘I just wanted to play cricket, so I didn’t overthink anything. I didn’t feel any pressure at all, I was just so young. I think that comes later, when you get older you start to overthink things.
‘It was more exciting than scary, and it helped that my team were pretty amazing, they’ve always been really inclusive and just made sure the atmosphere was so welcoming and just positive. So even though I was quite young, and the rest of players were a wee bit older, and yes sometimes I felt a wee bit out of place, but that definitely changed quite quickly,’ she continues.
Reflecting on her international travels so far, Maqsood says, ‘it’s been quite the journey and I’ve honestly loved every bit of it. I’ve got to go to places like Thailand and Sri Lanka, places I would never have thought to book a holiday to. I’ve got so many good friends from cricket, so honestly it has been such an amazing ride, I can’t wait to see where it takes me.’
Despite the growing professionalism in neighbouring country England providing opportunities for Kathryn Bryce, Sarah Bryce and former Scotland international Kirstie Gordon in the regional structures, cricket in Scotland remains largely a self-funded endeavour.
‘Even now it’s not something I see as a career, it’s quite tough to see that at the moment because the scope isn’t quite there yet, especially in Scotland. So yeah it is really serious for me and it’s really important that I put in 110% effort but it is quite different to make it into a career which is why I study dentistry,’ says Maqsood.
‘If there was a good infrastructure in Scotland, then I would 100% want to be a cricketer but at the moment it’s quite tough to do that. It’s not a hobby at the moment it is more than that, but it isn’t quite a career.’
Nonetheless, Maqsood will get her first taste of a professional set up when she joins Birmingham Phoenix in the summer. A last-minute registration prompted by Scotland teammate and vice-captain Sarah Bryce catalysed Maqsood’s late entry into the draw.
‘I was not expecting it at all. It was so far away from my mind and then it was Sarah [Bryce] actually who texted me asking if I had registered for the Hundred. I thought I wouldn’t get picked there’s no point. But she was like you’ve got nothing to lose.’
Maqsood recalls the moment she found out that she was picked for the Phoenix. ‘I was in a tutorial kind so I couldn’t reply to the text straight away. I just read like Birmingham Phoenix and I was like “Oh my God this is amazing.” So, I quickly took a screenshot and sent it to my dad and my whole family, and I was “like look at this text but I can’t reply to it right now.” So, I had to wait a few hours and then from there like obviously it was annoying the fact that I couldn’t tell anyone for so long.’
‘But honestly it was like a dream come true. I felt so happy and mainly shocked to be honest but really happy and my family were really happy as well for me,’ notes Maqsood.
Speaking on the Hundred, Maqsood thinks this will be ‘pretty special’ for the women’s game. An opportunity for greater media exposure for the game not only in England, but globally. The presence of three Scotland internationals and the addition of former Scotland international Kirstie Gordon, is perhaps just the start of getting more eyes directed towards the Wildcats.
‘The exposure is so important with women’s cricket in general so this is I think really amazing for us and yeah it’s a wee bit of a different game and there’s going to be different tactics and we’re going to have to figure it out at the time, but I feel like it’s still just cricket.
‘At the end of the day, you still need to bat, to bowl, to field. You need to do the basics right so I’m not going to think about it too much in terms of tactics and stuff, I’m just going to go out there play my game and hopefully figure it out as it goes because I think that’s what we’ll all be doing.’
Additional to the increasing visibility that will hopefully inspire more girls in Scotland to follow in the Wildcats footsteps, the professional structure of the Hundred will give the leg spinner increased resources to specialist coaching, albeit for a brief tournament stint.
‘It’s been tough in Scotland where we’ve never really had a specialist spin coach ever. I’ve had quite a lot of training with Steve Knox who was head coach of Scotland for like four or five years. He’s actually a batter but he’s a really good spin bowling coach as well and he’s completely changed the way that I bowled, and I’ve genuinely gotten so much better under his coaching.’
‘I’m most excited for just the idea that it is going to be a lot more professional with so many different people that I can talk to not just coaches but also players from all around the world. There are quite a few spin bowling options in my team and then there’s also Kirstie Gordon who used to play for Scotland and who’s also been another pretty important person when it comes to spin bowling for me and so will be good to catch up with her again,’ Maqsood notes in anticipation.
‘So yeah, I’m just really excited to talk to a whole bunch of people about things maybe I’ve not really talked to people about in Scotland before. That’s something that I’m really excited about just seeing and playing with and against the best people.’
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