In conservative Pakistan, a bunch of women are playing cricket well after midnight

Tape-ball cricket tournaments are getting popular among girls in cities like Karachi, who also often play in their school and club teams.

Written by Nandini Rathi | New Delhi | Updated: June 14, 2017 10:05 pm
pakistan cricket, women's cricket, girls play cricket Women Night Tournament (Final Day) Photo from KheloKricket.com.pk (Republished with permission).

A couple of years ago, a group of young Pakistani women identifying themselves as ‘Girls in Dhabas’ sought to put more women in the public spaces frequented majorly by men. Cricket is another way they have been doing this. And in some seasons  — it is during the nights.  

Night cricket is very popular during Ramzan. It helps while away the hours between Taraveeh prayers and sehri,” Shazia Hasan writes in Dawn. It is not a rare thing for these cricket loving women to leave the safety of their homes after dark, without worrying their families, to assemble in a public park where there are many others like them gearing up for a fun match. This of course is not totally surprising considering that the Pakistan Women’s Cricket team is a fine one and getting into it is anything but child’s play.

In 2015, cricket journalist Hadeel Obaid launched her startup venture KheloKricket (KheloKricket.com.pk), Pakistan’s first online social hub for cricket players, which keeps track of team news, player profiles, scores, centuries and playing schedules at school, university and company levels. Players — both men and women — can simply register themselves on it and even find new opponents. The website also features a gallery of images and videos documenting these cricket activities. KheloKricket recently held a KK Women’s Night Tournament with eight teams playing night tape-ball cricket in a Karachi neighborhood ground. The matches would start around 10pm and end by 2:30am. There was a an excited neighborhood audience, including the family and friends of the players.

Tape-ball cricket tournaments are getting popular among girls in cities like Karachi, who also often play in their school and club teams. Tape-ball — a tennis ball covered with electrical tape — was developed around 1970s in Pakistan, where imaginably a lot of cricket is played on the streets, as an alternative to the cricket ball, something cheaper and easier to replace when lost or damaged. It is also less likely to cause bodily hurt or damage objects upon impact. The rules of tape-ball cricket are much simpler and adapted to the local conditions than standard cricket, which is more tense and formal. The freestyle format popularises the sport too as it has a low entry barrier — it only takes a good eye, alertness and athleticism to join in.

Of course the challenges for women’s games are very many and is hardly limited to Pakistan in South Asia. The overall participation of girls in sports is very low. There are no dedicated fields for women’s cricket and the women’s cricket clubs have much lower standards compared to men’s. The players usually only come from the progressive families that generally believe in gender equality and don’t mind their daughters playing outdoors. The players of opposite genders also don’t mix. Still, the informal women’s tournaments seem to make a dent on this dismal trend in a particularly conservative country by popularising an enjoyable sport culture among girls in various neighborhoods and by providing them with opportunities to play to boost confidence and performance.

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