We’re at Gatwick Airport hoping the weather holds out today but not for our flight. Ahmed and I are sitting at Gate 35 watching cricket, delaying our boarding as much as possible to watch India’s bowlers pile pressure onto South Africa’s opening batsmen. The outcome of this match determines who goes into the semi-finals. Group B of the ICC Champions Trophy was blown wide open after Sri Lanka’s unexpected but brilliant win over India. Bangladesh is through after yesterday’s Group A game between England and Australia, for which we managed to get tickets last minute.
It was the second time my family and I made the road trip from London to Edgbaston in a week and my husband and I caught India versus Sri Lanka at the Oval. Like me he is a huge cricket fan.
I grew up in a Pakistani household in England, so becoming a purveyor of cricket was fate. Of course I love to see England and Pakistan do well, but for the most part the enthral of the sport itself keeps me hooked.
We watched everything from World Cups to the Ashes, county T20 to one days and tests as well as international leagues. Like many sporting fanatics I take cricket very seriously and yet as a female cricket fan I often find I am not taken seriously.
My anger over this goes back to our schooling days when cricket season would kick off in Physical Education. The girls would be fobbed off and forced to play rounders while the boys would head off to play cricket. Likewise we were made to play netball, hockey and soft ball instead of football, rugby and basketball. As a girl on the Isle of Man I had no opportunities to play cricket, maybe I didn’t want it enough back then to fight for it, but I recently met a male cricket fan who made me irate.
I have been super lucky to be part of a family that doesn’t suffer fools. If you are going to talk about something, have the substance to back it up. I remember watching a World Cup in 2007 with some lad mates and they were genuinely surprised at my understanding of the game. Would they have been as surprised if a man had demonstrated their knowledge of the sport?
Like most of the cricketing world, I love to watch Virat Kohli play. My husband and I were both a little gutted at the Oval when he went for a duck (but hey, that’s the nature of the game). Throughout the game we had been chatting on and off with fans beside us. When Kohli got out I expressed how gutted I was and one of the male fans turns to me and says, “Yeah, basically every woman is here to see him play.” I am sorry, what now?
I mean what other reason could I possibly have for being at a cricket game other than a crush on one of the world’s best cricket players? According to this guy, none! By the way, I don’t even have a crush on Virat Kohli.
Most of the male cricket lovers in my life don’t have this view, or at least I hope they don’t. If you do, WTF? No seriously, WTF?
Here I was loving the fact and thinking that cricket is changing. I am so happy that Isa Guha is now on the Professional Cricketers’ Association and even though it’s a step in the right direction, we need more steps like this!
Leagues like the IPL and PSL have embraced female commentators but other major tournaments should be doing the same. We need to hear more women’s voices, plus Mel Jones everyone, we all need a little more Mel Jones in our life.
It’s exciting that women cricketers and women’s cricket is getting more love (and coverage), but it isn’t enough. The women’s teams need to play on major grounds more, get equal representation in the media and better pay. Some countries are doing this better than others. Earlier this year, in a move to address the disparity between male and female players, Cricket Australia (CA) have put forward a major pay rise proposal for domestic and international female cricketers.
The Australian women’s team previously called the Southern Stars, will now officially be known as the Australian Women’s Cricket team. David Peever, chairperson of CA said “Cricket cannot hope to be a sport for all Australians if it does not recognise the power of words, and the respect for women that sits behind such decisions.”
Well I think that this sentiment needs to be embraced by absolutely everyone in the cricketing world and beyond. As cricket fans we need to take on the responsibility of addressing the disparity between the two sexes. We can do that by supporting female cricket with our viewership, enthusiasm and passion in equal measures. Especially if we want to be taken seriously as female cricket fans.
I think one of the best moments from ICC World Twenty20 last year was when the West Indies female side (who had won their final) ran onto the pitch after the male team won the final as well. Seeing the two teams celebrating together on the pitch is basically what cricket (and life) needs to be about now.
Because as Cricket Chacha said to my sister and I at the Pakistan versus South Africa game, hum kaum ki betiya hai (daughters of the nation), so don’t be the guy who dismisses us for anything less.