Born on 7th March, 1987, Marina Iqbal made her international debut in 2009 against Ireland Women. She represented the national colors for close to 6 years and was part of 34 ODis and 42 T20Is. She started her career as a bowler but eventually discovered her love for batting.
That’s not it. Marina recently became Pakistan’s 1st female cricket commentator. In an interview with Female Cricket, Marina talks about her childhood cricket days, her inspiration growing up and what sparked in her the idea of becoming a commentator.
1) The response to your latest stint as a commentator during Pakistan and Australia has been phenomenal. How much did you enjoy this role?
Well its a great opportunity for me to venture into another area of cricket. I have been really lucky to start off with a very supportive production team and a co. Commentator who has been guiding me from the very start. Its a great experience to be honest. Being able to hold up the mic and share my views about the game is phenomenal and I am enjoying it utmost.
2) When did the idea of becoming a commentator strike?
I have been talking to my board and the management at PCB Women Wing as to how can we develop more opportunities for cricketers other than just being a player, that would utilize their game experience and help youngsters and aspiring fellow cricketers. So they asked about my interests and I straight away picked up commentary. Again I got lucky because Pakistan was hosing Australia in Malaysia and that brought a perfect platform for me to kick start my journey.
3) Take us back and let’s talk about your childhood cricket days? What age did you start?
My father was in Army and he was a champion of tennis. Initially, he gave all the motivation and made me follow sports. We had a corner in the study room where all of his trophies and medals were on display. That always caught my attention. But I had been drawn towards cricket from a very young age. Being the youngest of all, I used to play with my brother a lot specially cricket and one of my uncle was then the part of Pakistan Men’s side and he has always inspired me. But at the same time, back then there was no scope of pursuing women’s cricket at a professional level. I took it up as a hobby. At school, I was the only girl playing cricket with the boys and in those days I was fond of fast bowling trying to copy our National heroes like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Then in college I got the chance to play cricket with proper gears. After a year in 2006, PCB arranged trails for the regional team and I got selected after which there was no looking back.
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4) Who were your role model / inspiration whilst growing up?
My passion for cricket grew massively after 1992 World Cup when Pakistan lifted the world cup. Then later on, watching Shoaib Akhtar made a huge impact on me. I used to copy bowling actions of these legends in my home lawn. I used to look up to these national heroes. But once I started playing properly under PCB, I realized I was more of a batter than a bowler. It came very naturally to me. Working on my batting, I was greatly inspired by Sachin Tendulkar. Mohammad Yousuf and Kevin Pietersen. I learnt a lot and that helped me improve my batting. I learned so many shots by just watching him and there is a huge glimpse of Kevin in my style of batting.
5) Who do you credit the most for your success today?
Well, firstly all the credits to my parents who supported my passion amidst the societal pressures. They not just approved of my cricket profession but also helped me in each and every phase of my career. My mother used to accompany me in practices and matches and my father always helped me technically as well as mentally to deal with the game. Had they not supported me, I would have not been what I am today.
6) Did the nostalgia strike when you made your maiden appearance at the commentary box?
Yeah definitely. The feelings felt so fresh as if it was yesterday. I missed the 22 yards badly, also walking out as an opener for the team and then realizing that other commentators must have talked about me like I am doing today.
7) What do you miss the most about the 22 Yards?
Well I haven’t actually taken retirement yet, so I can go out and bat again but for now definitely I am missing the moment. That feeling cannot be described in words, to be honest.
8) What do you think is holding back the Pakistan women’s cricket team from being world no 1?
I am quite happy about how the team has been progressing since last few years given that there is lack of structure for women’s cricket in Pakistan. We do not have enough clubs or grounds dedicated to women’s cricket. Our domestic structure is still improving and lack of enough matches at International level is a big hurdle. ICC Championships has truly played a crucial role in the overall development. But to answer your question, what is holding us back is the quantity of quality cricket matches.
9) Any current woman Cricketer in whom you see your reflection?
I have seen few young girls with immense talent in them and that’s a positive sign. Yes, Javeria Rauf, a girl from Karachi has some glimpses of me as far as flick shots and cover drives are concerned.
10) Today, when you look back to the cricketing days, what do you think you could’ve done better? Or a change?
No, I am very satisfied as how it all turned out for me. Every event is an experience and learning is required to become a person of a strong head and a firm character. Though one thing if asked, I wish I had mom see me playing for Pakistan and representing Pakistani colors. I lost her just a year before I got the Green Blazer and I definitely wanted her to be there and see me getting selected because she has prayed almost every day to see me playing for the country.
11) Was captaincy a turning point for you? Added responsibilities and respect at the same time?
I captained Pakistan A twice. I was appointed as captain in my debut match for Pakistan A team, something I would always cherish. Captaincy got the better out of me. My performance enhanced as a captain. Maybe the responsibility got out the best of me so yeah I never got under pressure, I always enjoyed every bit of it.
12) Was being a cricketer always the dream? If not that, what were your other passions that could be turned into profession?
I was into cricket since childhood. Then in college, I got selected for my college team which further boosted my idea of taking up cricket as a profession. But if not cricket, I would have been a doctor.
13) How’s women’s cricket in Pakistan at the moment? Has it evolved over the years?
Definitely. Pakistan Team has won two Gold Medals at the Asia tournaments and has also beaten top quality teams. Players and the aspiring girls are now aware of the pathway to women’s cricket. Even the PCB is working hard to nurture grassroots to bring out quality talents from around the country. That’s a very positive sign and is surely going to benefit Pakistan in the years to come.
14) Tell us about some things that cricket taught you to make life better?
Well for me, there are a lot of things. I always felt that cricket was a part of my life. It taught me to be patient, persistent and imbibed hard working and team leadership skills in me. It also prepared me for several life challenges. You learn to trust yourself and fight your weaknesses. It teaches empathy by being a team member. It teaches you to fight the odds and find solutions to your mistakes. Above all, it helps you live one day at a time.
15) A record you wish you’d made / broken?
I always wanted to score a century on my debut. Never mind!
16) Sana Mir recently created a record by becoming first and the only Pakistani player to feature in the top ICC bowler ranking. How much does this mean to Pakistan cricket?
Its a huge achievement not only for her but for the whole nation. The role model she has been attracts lot of young girls to come out and play. With this achievement, I believe more and more girls would be inspired to take up bowling and playing cricket for Pakistan. Sana’s milestone proves that hard work and self belief can do wonders. I feel this milestone will be a game-changer for Pakistan’s Cricket.
17) What do you feel about the current Pakistan squad ahead of their T20 World Cup campaign? What are some strengths and areas to improve before the action begins?
Its a balanced side with some very promising youngsters and experienced players. As a bowling unit, they are very strong considering the T20 format. I think all they need to do is gain some confidence and self belief in the scoring areas. It would definitely help.
18) One thing you really want to do or say to the aspiring cricketers?
Cricket is a passionate game but at the same time requires a lot of patience. You need to be very consistent and hard working. There are no short cuts, what you do off the field will reflect on the field. Most importantly focus on how to become better every single day rather than focusing on results. It’s a process and it takes time but hard work always pays off for sure.