Women have been contributing to cricket for the longest time. But, it could be said that thanks to the increasing focus on the ‘Gender discussion’, one finds, their valuable contributions being increasingly recognised at this point in time. Last year, when the ICC Women’s World Cup happened, it proved to be a watershed moment in the Women’s game.
The world watched it; the entire sporting universe appreciated it. It was as if an unsung hero had finally got a full script based on her valiance.
The role of the female in Cricket is not just any lame discussion; it’s a dominant discourse of our times.
To that end, one finds that where the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, Lara, De Villiers, Warne, McGrath, Ambrose, Akram, Kumble, Sanga have taken the men’s game to peaks previously unimagined, on the other hand, the names of Lanning, Perry, Healy, Raj, Goswami, Mandhana, Stafanie, Heather, Brunt, Shrubsole, Hayley, Mignon, Neikerk, Mir, Javaria, Chamari have emerged as flag-bearers of Women’s Cricket.
But all of that is in the mainstream- isn’t it? What about Chile? How’s Cricket in the land of the famous Andes Mountains? How deep does Cricket reach in a country that’s home to the world’s largest swimming pool?
Is the love for the game reaching the womenfolk, the way one loves to engage in a picturesque outing at the Atacama Desert?
We were delighted to interact with a woman in whose hands rests the rise of the Chile Women’s team. Ever-smiling, humble, utterly humane and simple, Jeannette Cristina Garces isn’t just the captain of the Chile Women’s team; she’s an inspiring leader.
A fan of the Proteas Women’s; an admirer of Marizanne Kapp, and deeply influenced by a stalwart of of South Africa Women’s game- Mignon Du Preez- Jeannette Garces marries a simplicity and passion that embodies the Chile Women’s team. It’s a team that is curious to break into the top fray of the sport and understands it’s got some work to do. But what it has to its credit is an unbridled passion for the game in a country that’s often alien to the spelling of the sport.
Undaunted and beaming with a smile- Jeannette talked Cricket and what it means to be a cricketer in Chille among a unit she’s lucky to captain.
How did Cricket in Chile begin? What and how were the origins? How’s the Chile Women’s team doing?
The first citing of cricket is confirmed in 1818 in Valparaiso, where one of our independence heroes was involved. There are some registers of some clubs after that. But cricket never was popular. In 2001, it started as a project, which was called Democratización del deporte, where Cricket Chile started classes in different, schools at Santiago, viña del mar and Chillan. People coming from different social classes were able to play cricket, this was revolutionary because cricket was always related to the “elite class” in Chile. After that in 2010, it was born the first women’s national squad, more of the girls coming from these projects. There’s pure passion for the game. And there’s an urgency to get better all the time.
Usually, the story of Cricket in South America may surprise viewers or followers of the game since it’s not exactly a Cricket-familiar territory. So what have been the challenges you’ve faced in that regard?
To be frank, Cricket has never been popular in Chile or for that matter in South America. So the first challenge that all South American cricketers face is often the following question: What is cricket?
Is that some Alice in the wonderland game?
So when all the community doesn’t know what is the sport you played, it doesn’t exist any market where to buy cricket equipment, when football is the big sport, there is no cricket ground, there are no games on TV, it becomes more difficult to get financial support, to train, to contact persons who want to play something that almost anybody knows. Internet, for us, is crucial to be updated and where it comes to learning new things from other places concerning cricket.
How popular is the sport right now at this time in Chile? Do the audiences love it and are the fondness for Chile Women’s team growing?
It’s not all that popular. But that said, hey, it’s growing.
Everything starts off from scratch- Rome Was Not Built In a Day!
After the women around us came together- to give our campaign weight- the word “cricket” is a little more known.
Our efforts are to play frequently with our team at Bogotá, where we made more people hear about Cricket as it’s rising in Colombia. But there is still a lot of work to do.
But one thing is very clear. Youngsters want new sport, they don’t want just to play football, which is well, all too familiar. So, Cricket is a perfect sport.
How much of a difference has the Associate status nation brought to Chile’s team and is there a men’s team too in tandem with the women’s team?
First up, some facts.
Chile Men’s team is older than Chile Women’s team. But there’s no so much Chileans in the team. That’s why our women’s team is so interesting, we are all Chilean girls playing the sport. I hope more Chileans have the space to play for their country in the next years in the men’s national team. With this new status is a new scenario, for so many years we wanted to be part of the circuit of cricket, to be counted and to have the chance to show our passion and work for this sport. We just had the chance to play domestic games, so It’s a perfect time for us, a great chance and we are going to take it!
How did you come to participate for the Women’s side? Am sure, it must have been an experience of sorts and a learning experience?
I started playing cricket in 2006, it was my first approach when MCC came to play against Chile men, and beside this cricket game, some cricketers not playing started a game parallel to teach cricket, so I played without knowing anything about cricket, it was so fun and confusing at the same time, I didn’t understand why people hit the bell and don’t run, why they scream howzaaat…it was confusing because I didn’t know anything about cricket… but I fell in love with the game. In 2009 my first tournament was Beach Cricket in Viña del Mar. At that moment it existed the rumour that Chile could be the host of the sac in 2010 and that cricket Chile were wanting to form a women’s team to represent the country.
Can you please take us through the members of the Chile Women’s team? Who are they and what are their strengths?
On that note, I’d say we are an alliance of experience and alacrity of the youth.
Actually, we have 15 girls.
2 of them are due to make their debut.
As a captain, I feel am privileged to lead an enterprising bunch that understands the game deeply vis-à-vis others in a nation that’s still opening its arms to embracing the sport.
I’m an off spinner and middle order left handed batter.
Nicol Conejeros, Jessica Miranda and Arlette Uribe are our pace fast bowling attack. Conejeros and Miranda are all-rounders. Right-handed.
Francisca Riquelme, Franchesca Moya and Yaritza Beltran are our openers. There’s also a lot of experience in the team. They are Right handed.
Janice Espinoza, Yaritza Beltran are slow and medium pace bowlers, respectively.
Franchesca Moya and Yaritza Beltran are our resourceful wicketkeepers.
Tiara Pueye is a youngster that will start to train wicket-keeping too.
Francisca Gálvez and Juliette Guardia are our best fielders on the ground.
Ariel Tapia, Ma José Saavedra are our batswomen with defensive technique, adapt to withstand pressure.
Annais Millan and Marisol are the debutants. Overall, we are one close-knit unit that plays for the team above chasing individual goals.
How do you guys keep yourself updated with the world cricket development, at what is happening at the global level in the sport? I mean, countries like India, Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies and sorts! I know there’s Internet 🙂 but how often do you guys watch Women’s cricket and how often?
Well, the Internet is the main source. But also we keep in touch with players in South America and some of them and us are friends in social media with other women player in the world. So social media and this network of women players in the world are essential to be updated about what’s going on in the cricket world.
When do you see Chilean Cricket in the next 2 years? At present, teams like Germany, Nepal and the likes are also trying to break into the top fray of international competitive cricket. So how soon can we see Chile there with a New Zealand or a Pakistan?
If this momentum can bring us more visibility and financial support, I think that in 5 years Las Loicas can be at a very good level and participate in more tournaments and why not, getting in the qualifiers for World Cup. While that’s at a distance, it’s gettable.
How has been the role of the ICC in shaping Cricket in Chile?
ICC has been an umbrella taking under its care the growth of cricket in Associate, Affiliate nations like ours.
Take us through the geographical landscape of Chilean cricket? How many grounds are there? Is the sport played in the cities of San Tiago, Concepcion, Valdivia, Arica, Temuco et cetera?
Cricket infrastructure is at a nascent stage. We net-practice a lot, and I mean, a lot.
There are no so much grounds, there are some not official in Santiago (used mainly by men team) and in Chillán. Viña del Mar, Chilean y Santiago are the main cities where Cricket is played and rising by the day.
In fact, we train in a cricket net in a backyard of a hostel and we train to field in a public park in Santiago. So in my view the more exposure we get from the country and its association with the ICC, the better it is for our exposure. We recently participated in an interesting limited-overs series against Brazil where we made it to the finals but lost. It’s events like these that ultimately hold the key for the rise of cricket, and hence, the rise of Chile Women’s team.