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Pitching love for cricket: Female cricket novices swing bat and bowl to raise breast cancer awareness

ACT's Indian-Australian women have taken to cricket for breast cancer awareness, mental and physical fitness. Source: Supplied by Sanjay Sharma

It all started as a fun activity to stay fit and raise awareness about breast cancer six years ago. But thanks to a Canberra-based couple, local Indian women and girls have become passionate about cricket and taken to competitive sport in Australia.

Homemaker Isha Sharma, 29, had never played cricket before she migrated to Australia. Her cricket-crazy family, especially her father, couldn’t convince her to even watch a cricket match.

Now she can’t wait to get back onto the cricket field in Canberra, where she lives with her husband and child, once the current COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.


Highlights:

  • Canberra-based Sanjay and Jasmine Sharma started Australian Multicultural Sports Association in 2017
  • Nearly 60 Indian-origin women, mostly new to cricket, play for the club
  • Awareness, money raised for breast cancer through McGrath Foundation

Ms Sharma apparently had no love lost for cricket when she lived in Hoshiarpur in India’s northern state of Punjab.

She told SBS Hindi that she’d tell her father to “stop watching cricket” and would switch TV channels as she didn’t enjoy the game.

Today, this is what she has to say.

“I love bowling and took two wickets in my last match,” Ms Sharma told SBS Hindi, failing to conceal her excitement.  

“I can’t tell you how much I love the game now. I call my father and discuss bowling techniques with him. I started playing the game to reduce weight and build up my mental fitness, but now it has become my passion,” says Ms Sharma, who arrived in Australia in 2017.

Nearly 60 Indian women, including professionals, homemakers, school and university students have come forward to play cricket.
Nearly 60 Indian women, including professionals, homemakers, school and university students have come forward to play cricket.
Supplied by Sanjay Sharma

If everything goes to plan and the ACT government lifts the current COVID-19 restrictions, the next season for women’s cricket will kick off in November. 

Two teams of Indian-origin female cricketers, Pink Panthers and Canberra Acers, will compete against each other for the Friendship Cricket Cup, which started last year.

They will also play on the annual Pink Stumps Day for the eighth time, where many teams from local clubs, schools and workplaces come together to raise awareness about breast cancer and money for the McGrath Foundation. 

Homemaker Isha Sharma had never seen a cricket match, but now she can not wait to get back onto the field.
Homemaker Isha Sharma had never seen a cricket match, but now she can not wait to get back onto the field.
Supplied by Sanjay Sharma

Though the teams are expected to play three friendly matches, no game in the recent past has ended without sparks flying and heated arguments on the field.

“Players have become super competitive over the years. Sometimes we have to intervene and tell them the umpire’s decision is final and has to be respected,” Canberra Acers' senior member and former captain Arvinder Sachdeva told SBS Hindi.

Ms Sharma and Ms Sachedva credit the cultivation of this passion to Canberra-based school teacher couple, Sanjay and Jasmine Sharma, who helped them on their journey from the home and hearth to the cricket field and provided them all the necessary training.

Every year the Indian Australian Multicultural Sports Association raises nearly $2,000 through cricket matches for the McGrath Foundation.
Every year the Indian Australian Multicultural Sports Association raises nearly $2,000 through cricket matches for the McGrath Foundation.
Supplied by Sanjay Sharma

“Initially, it was all about men. But then Jasmine encouraged me to start a team for women. So, we asked our friends if their wives and daughters could join the cause too,” Sanjay told SBS Hindi.

Friends didn’t disappoint the couple and the initiative began with around 15 participants who wanted to break the stereotype that women can’t play cricket and can only sit on the sidelines. 

“These women had used a belan (rolling pin), but none had ever held a bat or swung their arms,” Jasmine said.

“They also had to take time out of their professional and family lives to participate in the game,” she added.

Training sessions are organised for players before the match.
Training sessions are organised for players before the match.
Supplied by Sanjay Sharma

Nearly 60 Indian women, including professionals, homemakers, school and university students have come forward to play cricket since the couple started the Indian Australian Multicultural Sports Association in 2017.

Sanjay and Jasmine, who had played professional cricket before migrating to Australia in 2010, decided to coach and arrange equipment for the players.

“The initial years were difficult, but the girls started enjoying the game after a few training sessions. They have a dual purpose: they wanted to contribute to the cause and keep themselves mentally and physically fit,” Sanjay said.

“We aimed at creating a platform where new migrants can also socialise with each other and make friends. Many migrants find it difficult to adjust to a new country,” he added. 

Players credit their transformation to school teacher couple Sanjay (right) and Jasmine (left) Sharma.
Players credit their transformation to school teacher couple Sanjay and Jasmine Sharma. (pictured)
Supplied by Sanjay Sharma

Sanjay and Jasmine’s personal experience as new migrants was the motivation behind this sports club.

The couple left Australia within two years as they couldn’t make friends and adjust to a new country.

“Then, we said to ourselves, ‘let’s go back to Australia and give it another try’. So, after coming back, Sanjay started playing cricket with local boys and the rest is history,” Jasmine said.

Team's senior member and former captain Arvinder Sachdeva (right) says girls have become competitive over the years.
Team's senior member and former captain Arvinder Sachdeva (right) says girls have become competitive over the years.
Supplied by Sanjay Sharma

Their next plan is to start a junior club to train girls for ACT Grade cricket.

“We will contribute to and associate with the McGrath Foundation,” Sanjay said.

Every year the Indian Australian Multicultural Sports Association raises nearly $2,000 through cricket matches for the Foundation.

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