Zoha Siddiqi on cricket, heroes and the grassroots

Zoha Siddiqi is an up and coming Australian cricketer. Often highlighted for her hijab-wearing, left-arm bowling in the media, Zoha’s story is defined by far more than what she wears.

The story of immigrant hustle, dedication, and a multitude of passions all culminating together to enable Zoha to grow in the sport of her choice - Cricket.

Zoha Siddiqi plays a shot on the leg side in Australia
Zoha Siddiqi batting (Source: Supplied)

Zushan Hashmi: How did you get into the game of cricket? 

Zoha Siddiqi: I was born into a Pakistani family. My father played cricket in both Pakistan and Australia, when my brother was four he started to play the Milo-have-a-go competition.

At that time I was only two so my brother used to practice his bowling on me. With a plastic bat in my hand, ducking and weaving, over the years I started learning.

For a few years, I saw my father and my elder brother play cricket, that’s where my passion for cricket grew but initially my mother did not like the idea of me playing cricket with the boys.

I was only allowed to play cricket in my backyard with my elder brother and two of our close family friends.

When my father saw my ability, he asked my mother just to allow me one year of cricket. At the time I was eleven years old.

Later on I found out that there were all girls teams playing in competitions, so I joined Bankstown Women’s Cricket Club. 

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Was it ever difficult for you to pursue the game, as diaspora communities often want their children to focus on education first, or were your parents supportive?

I had my family support right from the beginning because my parents wanted a healthy and balanced life for my siblings and I.

My father always played sports during his student life and maintained a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and he wanted to transfer the same principles to his children.

So from a very early age, we were all encouraged to read and borrow books from our local library and we all had to join a sport to be active. Computer and video games were completely banned. 

Zoha Siddiqi with her school cricket team
Zoha Siddiqi with her first grade Campbell Town Cricket Team alongside former Pakistan captain, Sana Mir (Source: Supplied)

How has your family supported you in pursuing cricket?

Cricket is an expensive sport which initially involves the cost of buying gear and joining a club (club fees and levy).

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As the opportunities started to arise, the cost started growing so now instead of only playing at club level, I started participating in tournaments and cricket carnivals all across NSW, which involved a lot of travel, accommodation and time away from home.

As the challenges became stronger because of the quality of opposition, it started to become more competitive, specialised coaching became the next necessity in skill improvement.

Apart from these obvious costs, there was a time where during a week I was attending special coaching sessions, club training, NSW pathway training and two games on the weekend.

It takes a year round commitment of time, money and effort from parents. 

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You are predominantly a bowler, but have a 50 to your name too, how did you end up spin bowling and why do you enjoy it?

I’m an all-rounder and have scored a few 50s, especially in T20 games.

Initially when I started playing cricket, I used to open the batting and used to open the bowling attack as a left arm fast bowler, playing for Preston Hornets.

During some of the games my father taught me how to bowl slow off-cutters through which I would get a lot of wickets. During one game whilst playing for Bankstown Women’s Brewer Shield, our coach asked if anyone in our team could bowl spin as we had too many pace bowlers and no spinners so I raised my hand because my brother taught me how to bowl leg spin.

Me being a left-arm spin bowler, who could spin the ball both ways, took 4 wickets in that game. When I came out of the ground, my coach said to me that from now on, he wanted me to bowl spin in every game. And that’s how I became a left arm-wrist spinner.

I enjoy spin bowling as you are able to play with the batters mind and puzzle them into getting out. 

Zoha Siddiqi listens to her cricket coach while batting
Source: Supplied

What have been some of the main challenges in playing the game for you? Why?

The biggest challenge for me till I discovered the Nike hijab, was that the scarf I used to wear would get very hot.

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Because I wear long sleeves during games, if long sleeve shirts are available then I am fine, but when they are not, I have no other choice but to wear a long sleeve shirt underneath my club shirt and as anyone who plays the game would appreciate the temperature in the middle of the ground can get very hot. 

Just like school, life is always challenging at every level.

So I would probably have to use my time wisely and be more organised. 

You have mentioned in the past that you look up to players such as Usman Khawaja and Rachael Haynes, can you tell me why?

It’s basically because they are both left-handers and are both attacking batsmen.

Rachel Haynes was my coach for a brief period in the NSW U13’s pathways and Usman Khawaja, being of Pakistani descent, grew up in the same areas as I did and attended the same school, Westfields Sports High School. 

And do you think it’s important for cricket and sports in general, to have heroes like Usman Khawaja visible to them?

Everyone needs a Hero to look up to.

How do you juggle both aspects of your life and considering university will only get tougher, how do you intend to maintain doing both things?

Just like school, life is always challenging at every level.

So I would probably have to use my time wisely and be more organised. 

While playing any sport, remember it’s only a game so don’t forget to enjoy it. 

What are you aiming for in the future?

Life is a journey and It can take you to different places.

Who knows what it has in store for me. There are a few things in the pipeline which I can not disclose at this stage. 

Zoha Siddiqi takes a catch in cricket
Zoha Siddiqi takes a catch while fielding (Source: Supplied)

What would you say to young athletes who want to pursue the sport?

Always believe in your abilities and always believe in continuous improvement.

While playing any sport, remember it’s only a game so don’t forget to enjoy it. 

You can follow Zoha Siddiqi on Instagram.
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