Pakistan captain Bismah Maroof says the Twenty20 World Cup is a “big opportunity to showcase our talent” and boost recognition of women’s cricket in the country.
The 31-year-old all-rounder will spearhead a Pakistan team which has never been beyond the first round in seven previous appearances at the tournament.
Speaking to AFP by telephone from South Africa where the World Cup gets underway on Friday, Maroof said: “There were times when no one or very few people would know that the Pakistan women’s cricket team exists.
“With more matches and live coverage we have earned recognition and respect.”
Pakistan’s women will need to vastly improve on past World Cup performances if they are to make an impact at the 10-team tournament.
They have won only seven of their 28 World Cup matches to date, although two were against India, in 2012 and 2016.
Maroof and her team-mates will be chasing a third victory over their arch-rivals when the two sides clash in Cape Town on February 12 to kick off their campaigns.
After taking up cricket as a 16-year-old, Lahore-born Maroof has seen first-hand how women’s cricket in Pakistan has developed over more than a decade.
But she knows also that plenty of work remains.
“I hope it’ll keep getting better and we’ll be getting as the facilities and recognition as the other top teams do,” she said.
“That is the key to improvement.”
Pakistan are ranked seventh in the world, meaning they will have to over-perform if they are to make it past the first round at the World Cup for the first time.
At last year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Pakistan finished bottom of their group, behind T20 world champions Australia, India and Barbados, losing all three games.
They will be missing star pace bowler Diana Baig for the World Cup after she fractured a finger in a comprehensive 101-run one-day defeat to Australia last month.
But in Fatima Sana, 21, they have a bowling all-rounder who won the International Cricket Council’s emerging women’s cricketer award last year.
The title may well be beyond them, but Maroof says that the World Cup is “another big opportunity for us to showcase our talent.
“So I just want my team to play positive cricket and give their best.”