IT is unfortunate that Pakistan often sees progress in many fields falter because of a lack of follow-through. The country had hopes of turning in a reasonable performance at the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup under way in India, despite security hurdles in the host country that the players were not prepared for. But the team failed to win any of the four matches it played, and ended up ranked eighth. The factors blamed for this dismal performance are as varied as poor selection of the playing XI and an inability to utilise new talent to the best advantage; though the Pakistan Cricket Board tried to increase the team’s chances by bringing in former Test player Basit Ali as batting coach, he was appointed too late in the day to be able to make much of a difference to the quality of play. The tale is one of an unprofessional approach on the part of the PCB, and it is this that must be altered if we are to see wins again — there have been several notable ones — and remind ourselves that reaching excellence is not beyond reach.
If the PCB is not doing enough to support and build up the women’s team, the managing bodies of the other major sports in which women participate are doing even less. There is a women’s football team, too, which has to exist because Fifa rules stipulate it — but existing is about all it does. The women’s hockey team, once relatively high-profile, is not active on the scene now. Everywhere, it’s the same story: lack of meaningful effort on the part of the state to promote women in sport by providing facilities and popularising their presence on the field. The problem is not that Pakistan does not have sportswomen; it is that they receive very little institutional support. This means that where we see winners, it is largely because of the players’ own initiative, grit and resources — which are also limited. In a country whose leaders frequently boast about a commitment to women’s empowerment, that is a sorry indictment.