“If you respect us, you will listen to us and if you listen to us, you will protect us. So please protect us!” said Monisha, the representative of her team India South, at the Street Child Cricket World Cup, held in England earlier this year.
Born and raised on the street, 14-year-old Monisha is familiar with the struggles of having to be worried about her safety from such a young age. In 2016, when her father passed away, her mother started working as a house help to support her two children. Monisha and her sibling had to look after themselves.
Karunalaya, a non-profit organization working for the protection and development of street children, used sports and play as an intervention tool, providing the opportunity to hone their skills. Thus began her journey to the Street Child Cricket World Cup and it proved to be a life-changing experience for the young girl.
A potent voice at this gathering, Monisha shared her thoughts and concerns for children like herself, demanding global attention and action for the same. Team India South is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya. Here is a round-up of what the budding cricketer had to say!
Leher: Tell us about yourself, what do you like doing in your free time?
Monisha: I am Monisha I love playing games with children in my neighbourhood and interacting with them.
L: Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?
M: I was happy to win the final match over every other team! You know, I also got an opportunity to represent the voice of all the street children in India when I spoke at the General Assembly organised for all of us! I suddenly felt so responsible for myself and every other child and person living on the streets. I got a voice, was appreciated for putting my thoughts before so many people, I felt responsible for myself and all children and people living on the streets. I think street children should be given respect and taken seriously.
L: 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?
M: Everything was just so perfect in England! I became good friends with the team from England. It was so cold there, and the team gave me extra blankets to ensure I stayed warm. I also fell ill in England and was worried about my health and performance. A friend from the England team gave me medicines and took care of me. It was nice to see someone I do not even know to reach out and help me in another country.
L: Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?
M: My all-time favourite cricketer is Ganguly! Under his captaincy, India achieved great heights. He also gave Dhoni a chance to flourish.
L: Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.
M: Dhoni! I think if any cricketer made a mistake, he did not get aggressive, instead, he would motivate the team. He worked silently, never tried to hog the media limelight and was patient. Under his captaincy, I think India won two World Cups! He even worked hard as the captain of Chennai Super Kings and took them through many victories. I love Dhoni!
Our captain is also like Dhoni, patient and constantly motivating us.
L: Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?
M: Sachin! Bhumra is the best bowler!
L: Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?
M: Yes! I think Australia is a great team and skilled in their game! England is good too!
L: 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?
M: I will become an IPS officer so that I can work at the policy level to help street children and people from my community. I will continue playing cricket and shall keep the passion of the game alive! I like playing football too, but for me, it will always be cricket first.
L: If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who all would you pick?
M: I will have my friends Nagalakshmi, Paulraj, Surya and Guna in the team. Along with them, I would like to pick Ganguly, Hardik Pandya, Sehwag, too!
L: You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing 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?
M: Yes! I have never seen girls and boys play a match together. It shows the equality of gender and how girls are capable of doing what they want to. You know, in India I feel, girls are highly discriminated towards. But while playing a game of cricket, both are equal as we have only one common goal- to win the match!
L: Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?
M: Yes! Of course, I will be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket. In my community, we all watch the matches together on one television set. Last time too, my brothers saw the match and told me about women cricketers such as Mithali Raj. I got inspired by watching women sportsperson achieving great heights and it motivated me to focus on my game.
L: Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?
M: I never knew I was a good bowler. I thought I couldn’t play with any other competitive team and maybe this would just remain a hobby. But now, I am so much more confident. It was a great experience for me to speak on the stage without fear.
L: Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?
M: It should definitely be made compulsory. I have studied at a girl’s school and we do have several sports and games available other than cricket. If we have cricket, it will help me practice and it will also benefit other children.
L: How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?
A: I have immense self-respect for myself and now, I know my real worth! Earlier, a few people discouraged me, discriminated towards me because I was a girl, but now, they are supportive and encouraging of my wish to play cricket! I am proud to have come this far. Now, even the police talks to us with respect and we finally have an identity.
#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 around child protection and draw collective understanding and action towards a child’s right to play. You can follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to participate.