May 5 of 2022 was a rather interesting day in the lifeline of Cricket. It was a day where true to its incurable passion for igniting fans, the IPL produced a mega contest. A contest where Rovman Powell and David Warner became hitmen of the Kane Williamson’s team, ensuring the sun set early on Sunrisers Hyderabad.
It was also a day where the often under-appreciated Rachel Delaney notched up her 25th birthday, the cricketer among the finest off spinners in the business as also the one who Ireland perhaps needs to play a great deal more.
Elsewhere, the mighty talented Proteas Women’s skipper Dane Van Niekerk made headlines for her very passionate shutting down of Virat Kohli’s critics, stating in no uncertain terms that the naysayers need to, “Stop looking for reasons to discredit Virat and his achievements.”
But was that all about May 5 that made news?
Elsewhere, away from the pulsating sub-continent, currently hosting the world’s most watched T20 league (in the form of the IPL) and miles away from the realm of Twitter trolls and takedowns, a rather unknown cricketing team was writing the first- and hence- foremost chapter of its international journey.
Dreux, in France, is not your most classical destination for evidencing twenty cricketing hurling their talents at each other in a contest for supremacy.
The commune in Eure-et-Loir department in northern France is etched in literature dealing with French wars of Religion. These date so long back in time where all that prevailed was war, bloodshed, and the triumph of brute force in an ideological war, Cricket- not so much.
But just who’d have guessed that 460 years later since those bloodied wars, Dreux would play an important part in defining Spanish Women’s cricket? So much so that perhaps what transpired on May 5 at a historic French territory would become a date that none participating in Spanish Women’s cricket would ever forget.
It would be the date where Spanish Women’s cricket team played their first-ever T20 international.
Cricket and Spain, perhaps it doesn’t occur to many of us, have a deep connection that dates back to hundreds of years. Cricket has actually come a very long way since first being played back in 1809 and that too by a group of soldiers of General Lord Wellesley before ultimately becoming a (steadily) popular outlet that sees multiculturalism at its core.
Popularised (in Spain) by the British expatriate communities whilst first being discovered during the time of the great Peninsular war, Cricket’s passed on from the warring generations into the one where Women are etching an enterprising new chapter.
In that regard, the job done by Elspeth Fowler, captain, Spanish Women’s cricket team and her unit is simply phenomenal in that for the first time ever, Spain have participated in a quadrangular series also featuring Jersey, France and Austria.
And credit must go to Spain for participating in a brave contest on May 5, where even as they lost their maiden international by 35 runs, they made headlines for an impressive outing with both bat and ball.
For starters, dismissing a clearly more experienced outfit in Austria for just 127, which wasn’t a terrorising score, was a fine feat. In that regard, Rabia Ahmed Iqbal, with her three-for, proved just why she’s cut out at the international level with her medium pace.
Supported amply by the Kaur duo- Jaspreet and Simranjit- who dented early blow in the Austrian line up, it was an achievement of sorts in that the Spanish Women’s cricket side at 2 for 40 inside 9 overs.
Just how often does one find a first timer put an experienced side on the backfoot in its very first T20 international?
You’d reckon, it was a fine moment for Spain against a side that’s had an Andrea-Mae Zepeda serve the Austrian nation? What might have happened had the dogged right hander been at the middle?
Perhaps that she wasn’t there only played well into Spain’s side. Capitalising on early breakthroughs and what was ideally a chase-able target, perhaps the headlining material for the Spanish Women’s cricket side was its captain standing tall amid ruins during a chase that wasn’t going anywhere.
Being 1-for 1 until being 49-for-2, Elspeth Fowler stood tall and resuscitated a run chase that fell out of flavour quite early on with a gettable target.
The fact that the England-born batter scored 26 of her side’s 92 on her own was gutsy and must serve as a template of inspiration for the line of youngsters rising through the ranks in Spanish club cricket.
The key lesson here being that it’s quite possible to challenge a more experienced line up, even so, single-handedly and in what is your cricket journey’s first ever international outing.
That told, what’s most heartening and perhaps gladdening given Cricket’s reach is now well and truly beyond the strand of traditional geography is that nearly eighty to ninety percent of Spanish Women’s Cricket unit comprises talents you’d not consider essentially Spanish.
In an age where women are perhaps still being subjected to defunct and morose ideologies, child marriages being as rampant as next-to-demonic laws that state the ideal place for women is the kitchen not the cricket pitch, Spain’s giving a chance to a bold new generation that’s keen to express itself.
And that is where the likes of Muskan Naseeb, Aliza Saleem, Uswa Syed have emerged and are here to script their own history and with it, hopefully a bold new chapter in Spanish cricketing culture.
It’s a culture that has, undoubtedly, over the course of the last decade, carefully fostered a growing love for playing club cricket.
So is this a random statement in blind appreciation or factual and deserving praise?
What we see today may appear a team that’s a cricketing newbie, though, it’s one that has stemmed from a fertile ground that today- believe it or not- is responsible for no fewer than 115- if not more- cricketing clubs back in Spain.
For a country that exercises profound love and understandably so for Football and Formula 1, one where the likes of Xavi Alonso, Sergio Ramos and Fernando Alonso or Carlos Sainz are pinups and standard definitions of sporting icons, that names like Fowler and Amy-Brown Carrera have arrived is big.
It’s an arrival that must be celebrated much like May 5 that finally gave us the Spanish Women’s Cricket team and its first ever international outing.