In an exclusive interview with Women’s CricZone, Riaz talked about her partnership with Nida Dar, Bismah Maroof's return to the team, and how the Women’s Pakistan Super League will help Pakistan's players.
Q: You scored a magnificent half-century against Australia in 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. What are your memories of that knock?
I definitely remember that innings. It was my first half-century in ODIs. And to score a half-century against a big team like Australia was enormous for me. At that time, wickets were falling, and I needed to consolidate the innings. My mindset going in was to settle down and form a partnership. I continued with that process in my mind and completed the innings. I am happy about that innings.
Q: Moving from one superb knock to another, the innings of 81 against South Africa last year almost took Pakistan home. How do you rate that innings?
I got the confidence from the innings against Australia. I gained valuable experience which I continued against South Africa. I was trying to set the innings with Nida Dar. She helped me at the beginning of the innings and told me to gradually build my innings. Wickets were falling and we needed to consolidate for Pakistan. I was trying to win the match for my country but that didn’t happen. I want to be the player who finishes matches for Pakistan. I hope, I can do that for my team.
Q: You talked about having a partnership with Nida Dar. Is there any chance of you and her batting in the top-order going ahead?
It’s about team planning. The coach and captain will decide what is best for the team. Whatever role they have planned for me, I will take that responsibility. If I have to bat up the order, it’s a different kind of responsibility. I will get enough time to consolidate my innings. My aim is to win matches for Pakistan and my batting position doesn’t really matter. I want to take responsibility for my team.
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Q: Bismah Maroof will be back for the World Cup. How important she is for Pakistan, as a leader, and as a player?
I have had a great experience with Bismah Maroof. She leads the way on and off the field. Even when she was not around the team, she was sending messages to individual players about their responsibilities. She is back, and we are all happy to have her. Our team will look better with her around, and I hope we can do better in the World Cup.
Q: You have played under the leadership of Sana Mir and Bismah Maroof. What do you think are the similarities and differences between the two captains?
Sana was a really experienced player. I have learned a lot from her. She was my captain when I was new to the team. Sana baaji guided me in my early days, and it has helped me a lot. Bismah has been the vice-captain of the team for many years, and she has learned a lot from Sana as well. Bismah’s way of captaincy is different from Sana's. I have had a great experience with both of them.
Q: The 2022 World Cup in New Zealand will be your first-ever ODI World Cup. How excited are you?
I am very excited about the tournament. I know I have a huge responsibility on my shoulders. Inshallah, I will try to do my best in the tournament as an all-rounder. My role, when batting, is to finish the innings for my team. In recent times, I was not able to finish the matches for Pakistan. I want to do that in the World Cup against the best teams in the world.
Q: David Hemp has been in charge of the team as head coach since 2020. How do you think he has impacted the team in general?
David has brought a lot of changes in the team. He has explained what kind of role I have to play for the team. When he says you have to finish the match for your team, and you are going to fight for your team, I get the confidence from that. David has worked well with every individual in the team. Every player knows what their role is. We are trying to be better in the outfield. Of course we can do better in the field and we are trying to do that.
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Q: Pakistan recently played a rare home ODI series against West Indies. How was that feeling to perform in front of the home crowd?
Playing at a home ground is always amazing. There is always that home crowd pressure but it always brings excitement. The West Indies series was planned as preparation for the World Cup Qualifiers. We, unfortunately, didn’t win the match but we learned a lot about ourselves in that series.
Q: Ramiz Raja, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), recently expressed his desire to start the Women’s Pakistan Super League (PSL). How do you think that will help cricket in Pakistan?
If Women’s PSL starts, it will be very important for the emerging players. It will bring improvements in the way we play the game. New players who have only played domestic cricket and haven’t yet featured in international cricket will get the opportunity to play alongside international players in Pakistan. These players will understand what they have to work on and they will be better prepared for international cricket.
Q: Lastly, you have been part of numerous biosecure bubbles over the last 2-3 years. This is certainly new for you. How difficult can it be for athletes who have to perform well after being in the bubble for a long time?
It’s difficult (laughs). The biosecure bubble is very difficult for a common person. It was really difficult in the beginning. But you have to sacrifice a little for greater success. If you look at this profession, it comes with the job. Now we are used to these bio-bubbles. We are managing to get our work done in the bubble as well. Our trainers give us a schedule and we try to make the most of the quarantine as well. I think we have learned patience as well.