YOU can’t be what you can’t see. That idea that role models are hugely important for inspiring the next generation is something Abtaha Maqsood feels very strongly about.

The 21 year-old grew up as part of a cricket-mad family in Glasgow, joining her brother for training sessions at Poloc by the time she was 11.

It was an intimidating experience, not just because she was the only girl at that time but also because nowhere – at matches or even while watching on television – could she someone who looked like her: a Muslim female wearing the traditional hijab head covering.

Cricket in Scotland, however, has come a long way in the intervening decade. A dedicated women’s team at West of Scotland has been founded and thrived, its make-up an eclectic mix of players young and old, Asian and white.

Maqsood has undoubtedly played a part in helping create that diversity. A seven-year veteran of the Wildcats international squad after being first called up aged 14, the leg spinner has become one of the most visible players on the Scottish cricket scene of recent years.


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Her profile will go up another notch this summer when she – fingers crossed – takes part in the inaugural The Hundred, a new innovative format of cricket where each side faces 100 balls in a fast-paced alternative to T20.

Maqsood has been called up to represent Birmingham Phoenix and, with some matches set to be shown on free-to-air television, hopes the sight of her bright orange hijab might inspire others.

“When I was growing up I didn’t really have anyone to look up to who was in the limelight as a Muslim woman with a hijab on playing sport at a high level,” she says.

“I feel like that if I can be that person for someone that would be amazing. I’d love to be able to inspire as many young girls as possible.

“There’s a horrible stereotype about Muslim women not being able to play cricket and we’re all oppressed when that’s just not the case. We just need a bit of a push sometimes and the right opportunity.

“You do hear stories that there are barriers to Muslim women playing sport which is definitely a cultural thing. In some countries they are oppressed not because they are Muslim but just because they are women.

“It’s not a religious thing, it’s purely cultural. But in the UK it doesn’t seem to me that people are stopping Muslim women from playing cricket. It’s more that they're not really encouraged the way some families would encourage their sons. They don’t think that’s what women are meant to do.


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“But if people are able to see me in The Hundred and realise that a girl wearing a hijab can do it, then that will hopefully inspire a few more to give it a go.”

There were no such family issues for Maqsood to have to overcome, with dad Mohammed a huge influence in her cricketing development.  

“He’s just so supportive in everything I do,” she adds. “When I was younger and couldn’t drive, my dad would take me everywhere for games and training. He was my personal taxi driver back then!

“He basically taught me how to play cricket, how to hold a bat and bowl. So he’s been really important in my journey.”

Her dad’s support was vital in the early years when she was one of the youngest in the senior Scotland set-up. Seven years later, the Glasgow University dentistry student admits she now feels more comfortable in those surroundings.

“It’s been quite the journey with Scotland. It was tough to fit in when I was that young as the rest of the team was a lot older. I was quite quiet and didn’t talk much.


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“But a year or two later Kathyrn and Sarah Bryce joined the squad so I became more confident when there were more people around my own age.”

The past year has been a frustrating one for all Scotland sides, men and women, with fixtures falling one by one by the wayside.

A planned trip to La Manga to take on Ireland in November was called off just days before the team was set to travel but Maqsood is hoping this year turns out better.

“It’s weird as I’ve not actually played since November and even then it was just indoor training. I’m used to playing cricket three times a week, all the time. It was always so busy. And now it’s just completely stopped.

“I was meant to be on that La Manga trip and then it got called off last minute. At that point I thought there was no way they could cancel.

“So that was a shock when it went off. I had managed to get time off uni and the rest of the guys had reorganised their lives for it. But hopefully it can be rescheduled.

“We’re all really missing competing but fingers crossed this will end up being a much busier year for us all.”