One high school girl’s dream grew into the first all-female cricket team in Manitoba, thanks to a group of like-minded teenagers from Brandon.
Mahee Patel grew up playing the sport with her family and decided to try and recruit girls at the Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School where she’s a student.
Patel says she was pleasantly surprised by the response.
“I had no faith that more than like three girls would join. But it turns out a lot of them did,” Patel said.
On Saturday the Crocus Plains Women’s team, with Patel as their captain, made history at the Manitoba Cricket Stadium in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park by becoming the first all-female team ever to participate in the Manitoba Cricket Association High School Jamboree.
Manitoba has more than 60 cricket teams in the province — 54 in Winnipeg, eight in Brandon and one in Winkler — yet there has never been an all-female team until now.
That means the Crocus Plains team has no other girls to compete against.
WATCH | Manitoba’s 1st all-female cricket team hits the field:
While the other teams include players with years of experience who play in league games. Patel and her team have only been playing for about three months.
But Patel said her team isn’t afraid.
“They’re not scared of hitting the ball or getting hit by the ball,” she said.
“We have taken all the equipment and all the safety measures … we’re ready to go.”
Greater interest in cricket
Garvin Budhoo, President of Cricket Manitoba, says interest in the sport has exploded in recent years.
There were 15 teams when he took over as president a decade ago, he said.
“We were battling with 15 or 14 teams and then we went to 20, and then over the last four years, we’ve just sprung and just ballooned at the waist and got to 54 this year,” he said, referring to teams in Winnipeg alone.
Much of the interest, Budhoo suggests, is due to newcomers to the province from “South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan.”
“The migration has been just phenomenal and cricket is one of the sports are the they play. They understand cricket. They know cricket,” he said.
Long-term plan for women
Budhoo says he hopes the new Crocus Plains team will spur women in Manitoba to form teams.
“If these girls can continue playing and participating, then I am hoping that in Winnipeg we can get more girls coming up and saying ‘Yep, we would like to play. We like to be part of a league,'” he said.
The teenagers on the new team are coached by Jeanine Allers, a former player.
Allers said they practiced at the high school indoors two days a week, and then when the weather got nicer, they moved outdoors..
“They love it so far and everybody was super interested in continuing along with like a development league in Brandon. So we’re hoping to get the resources and the support to start up a full-time women’s league there,” she said.
At the moment, there is one female player in Winnipeg.
Amarpaul Kaur, 24, plays with the Royal Kings Cricket Club.
Budhoo describes her as a “high-level” player in Canada. She plays for teams in Manitoba, Alberta and Toronto.
Patel says people shouldn’t put limits on women and girls when it comes to cricket.
“We can do anything we want,” she said.
“A lot of people assume that, oh, it’s cricket, the girls won’t be able to hit the ball as hard or throw the ball as hard as the guys do, but we can we can definitely do it if we practice,” she said.