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Girls Of Team North India And Their Experience With Gender-Equal Cricket

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“Our captain, too, was really good. Just because we were girls, he did not treat us any differently. He gave as an equal chance to play on the field and kept motivating us! The format of the Street Child World Cup is such that it had four balls in one over and everyone got an equal chance. We feel, that really helped us participate equally.” said the girls of Team North India on discussing mixed-gender cricket at the Street Child World Cup Cricket.

While their counterparts from South India, took home the cup, this team of 8, 4 boys and 4 girls from Kolkata, with support from Hope Foundation and Save the Children, had a life-changing experience at the Street Child World Cup Cricket.

Here’s a conversation with the girls of Team North India on their experience, learnings and love for cricket:

Q) Tell us your names, what do you like doing in your free time?   

A: We are Anjali, Mille, Rabia, and Rinky. I am Rinky, and love to dance on Hip Hop beats. Apna Time Aayega is a song I am currently listening on loop. I am Anjali, and I love to draw and paint. I am Mille and I am learning Kathak. I am Rabia, and I love both cricket and football equally!

Q) Congratulations on reaching till the semi-finals! How was your experience?

A: Thank you! We were really happy that we played the semi-final match against Nepal. We had never even thought in our wildest dreams that one day, we would travel to England and represent India! It was a great feeling to participate in the first ever Street Child Cricket World Cup and play a match at Lord’s! We met people from diverse countries, cultures and made new friends. We learnt that to play a game, we all need to be united and put our best foot forward. For us, winning or losing became secondary.

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A:It was fascinating for us to travel to England for a cricket match. But we found the aeroplane to be a boring place to be in for so long. In a train, one can move freely at least! But we played many games and watched movies, and it was fun to watch the clouds move.

Upon reaching England, we saw how everything was so well organized and we felt street children finally had found a voice. We went sight-seeing and observed that England does not have people living on the streets! No injured people were lying on the road as we have in India. They have good healthcare facilities. It is always so clean! England is beautiful, and we saw the London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, and Buckingham Palace, among other things.

But you know, we did not go just to play cricket. We were representing all the street children in our country. There was a General Assembly that was held, and we emphasized that the voice of street children mattered! We spoke about the need for the right to education, gender equality, nutrition, right to have an identity, the right to have children attend school and not work to get to school—speaking about these issues, making our voices heard, being taken seriously became equally important to us!

We believe that all children should get their rights. We shall appeal to the government that the “Right to identity” is the most important right for street children. We realised this when getting our passports was a difficult task as we did not have all the documents in place. If street children do not have any documents, it will be difficult to get admission even to a school; we don’t have a formal record to say we exist. We will appeal to the government to ease this process for all street children.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?

A: Dhoni, Malinga, Shikhar Dhawan, Dinesh Kartik, Andre Russel, Harbhajan are some of the cricketers we love! We think all of them are focused, know their game and are good players to get inspired from.

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: We all think Dhoni is the best captain! Dhoni is level-headed, patient, has good leadership qualities, and he knows the strength of each player. We have never seen Dhoni come in the limelight as he does not seek too much media attention. This helps in the game as he is focused.

Our captain, too, was really good. Just because we were girls, he did not treat us any differently. He gave as an equal chance to play on the field and kept motivating us! The format of the Street Child World Cup is such that it had four balls in one over and everyone got an equal chance. We feel that it really helped us participate equally.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: Sachin, any day! Harbhajan any day!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: India! India is a strong team, and they have worked hard and have won most of the matches. We think the World Cup Final will be between Indian and England, much like our Street Child World Cup match where Team South Indian and Team England went to the finals.

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I am Anjali, and I want to become a nurse as I want to serve people and help them. I am Mille, and I want to become a lawyer, I want to work for justice and reduce crime in our country. I am Rabia, and I would love to play football. I am Rinky, and I will become a fashion designer. I like to wear new clothes, and I will stitch my own clothes! We think that cricket allowed us to go ahead in England and we shall cherish this opportunity forever.

Q) Cricket as a sport unites our nation. How so?

A: In the game, the team has only one goal: to win against the opponent. This is the reason why people from diverse places, religions, languages and skills come together to form a team and make this happen. We feel that the team spirit in itself unities our nation when everyone wants India to win! This is precisely why rich and poor, both alike come together on a television set to watch the cricket match!

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who would you pick?

A: We shall have all our friends on the team! Anjali, Mille, Rabia, Rinky, Muskan, Jabir, Tarak, Irfan and Amit. If we had to choose outside of our friend circle, we would pick Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Virat Kholi, Dinesh Kartik, Russel and Gautam Gambhir in our team!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys play international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes! We have seen more boys and men play international cricket. Playing in a mixed-gender team was actually the best thing that happened to us! We used to wake up at the same time as the boys and get into practice and routine. We did the same amount of push-ups the boys did, and nobody stopped us from playing just because we were girls. There was a sense of equality and respect with the way boys treated us. We were on par with boys, and so, we think it is essential to have a mixed-gender team. We realised girls are strong and no less than boys! Before this, we did not get an opportunity to explore our physical strength and speak up. We were equally part of the decision-making process, and we felt that our voice mattered.

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/Why not?

A: Yes! We will support the Indian women’s team! We anyway love Mithali Raj and admire her game. I think when we support the Women’s World Cup Cricket, it will only encourage more and more girls to participate and take sports seriously. More than that, we feel girls should just enjoy playing a game.

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: -We learnt the importance of how a routine can help us become better at what we do.

-We learnt why discipline matters to work towards a goal.

-We learnt that team spirit is important to win a game!

-We learnt why it is important to be punctual and have self-discipline.

-We learnt how eating a healthy balanced diet can help build stamina.

-We learnt that our voice matters!

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: We think sports should be made compulsory in school. Cricket can be one of the optional sports so that children can choose what sport they want to pick. Some children may like football, more than cricket. Not everyone has access to a cricket stadium, and the equipment is expensive. If schools can have that fees waived off and talk to the government, cricket can become an affordable game that is accessible to street children. This will ensure that no child is denied playing a sport due to lack of funds.

 Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: Earlier, street children were not taken seriously, and we never got a platform or a voice to speak about our issues and rights. We all had great difficulty to get our passports made because we did not have all the documents needed to create a passport. You only tell us what about the children who were raised on the streets? How will they get documents for proof of address or even a birth certificate?

It is for the first time we realised why having a document is important and is linked to Right to Identity. When we went to England, we participated in the General Assembly, where all the children were given three days to discuss the pressing issues that we faced. For us, Right to Identity came out strongly. Moving ahead, we’d like to urge the government to ease the documentation process for street children.

Apart from that, we went to England; we were treated with respect and dignity. We played a match at Lord’s and went all the way to England for the first time! Sometimes, we still can’t believe that all of this actually happened! But beyond the game, we met important dignitaries and had breakfast with them, they showered their love and spoke to us. and we felt we mattered.

Earlier, people used to think that street children are not talented, but we never got a platform to show our talent. It was only when we came back from England, now everyone knows us. We have developed our personality and are confident!

We are also more disciplined and punctual now. I think this is what learning a sport did to us. We are thankful and proud to get this opportunity.

You can read what the Boys Team of North India had to share with us here.

#PlayMatters is a micro-campaign by Leher, a child rights organization working to make child protection a shared responsibility. The aspiration of this campaign is to start conversations and draw collective understanding and action towards a child’s right to play. You can follow us on twitter, instagram and facebook to participate.

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