Bossing the men's game! Meet the women at helm of Multan Sultans

Alex Hartley, Catherine Dalton reflect on groundbreaking role as bowling coaches of PSL's table-topper Multan Sultans

By
Faizan Lakhani
Bowling coaches Alex Hartley (left), and Catherine Dalton during the training session of Multan Sultans at Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9 in these undated photos. — Reporter
Bowling coaches Alex Hartley (left), and Catherine Dalton during the training session of Multan Sultans at Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9 in these undated photos. — Reporter

ISLAMABAD: In a historic move within the cricketing world, Multan Sultans have shattered the glass ceiling by integrating female leaders into their men's cricket team. 

With the appointment of Catherine Dalton as the fast bowling coach and Alex Hartley as the spin bowling coach, along with Hijab Zahid at the helm as general manager, the Sultans have become the first franchise team to hire female staff in both management and coaching roles in franchise cricket.

Dalton, a former Ireland cricketer, reflects on her groundbreaking role as the fast-bowling coach, stating: "It's been an amazing experience. Obviously, as a female coach, it's something a little bit different. It's never happened in franchise cricket [...] travelling around to different places, seeing all the fans, they've been so supportive."

Multan Sultans fast bowling coach Catherine Dalton poses the picture with pacers Shahnawaz Dahani, and Abbas Afridi. — Reporter
Multan Sultans fast bowling coach Catherine Dalton poses the picture with pacers Shahnawaz Dahani, and Abbas Afridi. — Reporter

Dalton's sentiments are echoed by Hartley, a former England cricketer and the spin bowling coach for Multan Sultans.

Hartley describes her initial apprehensions and subsequent warm reception, saying: "It's been brilliant... there was a little bit of apprehension on how I would be not respected but taken as a coach, I guess for the first time in a men's environment but the day I got here, everyone was so warm and welcoming."

The presence of Dalton and Hartley in leadership positions within the men's cricket team not only represents a significant step towards inclusivity but also challenges traditional gender norms within the sport.

“There's a saying if you can't see it, you can't be it. And I think now we're seeing women in these roles. It's making a massive impact. And as you said, gender equality is getting better,” says Dalton.

“I think it's really important to establish a relationship of trust. And once you have that, then you can start to add value. And I think what I've discovered as a coach is if you're adding value to a player, you're making them better, you're improving them, then they don't mind where the message comes from. And certainly, my style was quite relaxed, quite a happy style,” said the former Ireland cricketer.

However, Hartley, a former World Cup winner with England and a regular cricket commentator, feels that women’s inclusion in men’s game shouldn’t be just a tick-box activity.

“I want to see more females in the men's game. I do. And I think it's brilliant. Because you know, we bring a different side to it, we have different knowledge, we have different experiences, but I don't want it to become a tick-box exercise."

"So, for me, you have to get the right people involved at the right time. And you know, it's just like men's cricket, you have to appoint the right people, for the right teams. But yeah, there is no reason why more women shouldn't be in the men's game,” she said.

Multan Sultans general manager Hijab Zahid (left), spin bowling coach Alex Hartley (centre), and fast bowling coach Catherine Dalton. — Facebook/multansultans
Multan Sultans general manager Hijab Zahid (left), spin bowling coach Alex Hartley (centre), and fast bowling coach Catherine Dalton. — Facebook/multansultans

Hartley also highlighted the gender-based criticism, stating: "I think the press and some wider people wanted us to fail because we had two females on the coaching staff." However, she emphasised the resilience and determination of the team to let their results speak for themselves.

Zahid, the general manager of Multan Sultans, feels that the initiative to appoint female coaches was very pivotal in making others realise that gender is not something we should be looking at when hiring someone for a role

“The step that Multan Sultans has taken, has sent a very important message, not just in Pakistan but globally as well as our two female coaches are from England and Ireland, even in their countries they did not have this opportunity, so we are kind of pioneers in this initiative of giving women important roles in men’s cricket,” she said.

As the world is celebrating International Women's Day, the women of Multan Sultans have shared messages of empowerment and encouragement. "My message is to be confident," Dalton stated. "You can do anything if you put your mind to it."

Hartley echoed these sentiments, expressing hope for continued progress. “We've been through so much as females and been through so much adversity and things are slowly but surely starting to get better. But I'm hoping the role I've played here at Multan is to show that this isn't just cricket. This is a wider thing. This is showing that, you know women are respected in Pakistan and can be respected in Pakistan,” she said.

Zahid emphasised the importance of mutual support on Women's Day. "This day is for everyone to celebrate and support each other, mutually," she remarked.