By Giselle Mills
With one well-aimed swing, and a sweet loud “Crack!” the ball went soaring through the cool night air. All eyes watched with bated breath as the small white speck shot through the sky like a shooting star. When it vanished beyond the boundary, the crowd erupted in roars.
Horns blared as the two batswomen met in the middle of the pitch for a celebratory word. I was too far away to see their faces but I knew they must have been happy. I was happy. I was grinning from ear to ear as if I had been the player who hit that magnificent ball. That’s the effect of good cricket – making you feel as if you are part of the action.
On Saturday 6thOctober, 2018, I attended my first ever women’s cricket match. The competing teams were the West Indies Women versus South Africa Women. If my friend had not invited me, I would not have known about the game. I hadn’t heard it advertised anywhere. Now, I’m not a big sports-watcher, but I do like cricket. Whenever the West Indies men’s cricket team is playing, their matches are broadcasted widely. I don’t think it is farfetched to conclude that our female cricket team is not given as much media exposure as the men’s team. Judging from the relatively small turnout on the night of the match, I was not the only one unaware of its occurrence.
But lack of proper media coverage aside, it was a good match and a great experience. It was also my first time attending a match, or in fact, visiting the newly opened Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, Trinidad. We were a bit lost in the beginning, trying to find the turnoff from the Solomon Hochoy Highway. We ended up missing it and had to drive down to the San Fernando overpass to turn around and head back up the highway, to have to turn around by the Gasparillo underpass to head south once again. When we finally turned on to the correct road, I was a bit nervous driving along the dark, deserted lane. I actually wondered if the match had been cancelled. Were we driving into a trap? Where were all the other vehicles? Surely, we could not have been the only ones arriving late?
But soon, the lights of the stadium came into focus and a surprisingly cheery guard at the security booth at the end of the road assured us that we were at the right place. I was surprised to see so many empty spaces in the parking lot but I was simultaneously relieved by the sight of a few more vehicles. Company!
My worries now allayed, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the large stadium before us. The image of its namesake Brian Lara, adorning its front, along with the top scores he ever made in his cricket career, is wonderful to behold. Lit up at night, it was even more impressive and awe-inspiring.
By the time we got inside, the match was underway with the Windies women at the crease. Despite the small crowd, their cheering and taunting was loud and exuberant. The nuts vendor nearby was the most boisterous of the lot, shouting his running commentary and heckling remarks. At several points he referred to the female cricketers as ‘girls’ and I was tempted to shout back, “They are not girls, you misogynistic fool. They are women!” But I restrained myself from engaging in such a verbal exchange. My attempt at correcting him would have been futile. In any event, the atmosphere was lively as the Windies batted.
When the overs were up, we bought food from the vendors during the break. I had chicken and fries. We had to pay ‘new stadium prices’ of course, but the food was actually good.
When the game resumed with the Windies women fielding and South Africa batting, the crowd quieted as expected. Bellies were now full and there wasn’t a South African fan in sight. The annoying nutsman had also moved on to a different section of the stands to harass the patrons there.
The opposing team seemed to be playing safe, scoring a few slow runs. Until things began to heat up after a while. One of the South African batswomen began hitting sixes, much to the frustration of the onlookers – myself included. One six. Two sixes. Three sixes. More and more sixes! We were all fuming and steupsing (sucking our teeth in disgust). The South Africans were now quickly gaining on our score!
“Why de ass they don’t out she?” cried someone in the crowd.
Those were my sentiments as well. But as if that cry was a divine prayer, the prolific scorer was soon caught out as she attempted another six.
“In she tail!”
The crowd was beside itself with joy, cheering and jeering at the ousted South African batswoman.
Sadly, our relief was short-lived. As the game progressed, the opposing team quickly scored more and more runs. In a desperate attempt to thwart the attainment of another six runs, one of the Windies players threw herself across the field after the ball, miscalculated her speed, and tumbled and rolled roughly against the hard ground, crashing into the boundary. Needless to say, she sustained some injury and was carried off the field by medics on a stretcher. I do hope she has recovered by now.
When play continued, the remaining Windies women appeared to have been motivated by their fellow teammate’s sacrifice. However, despite their best bowling and fielding efforts, the South African team closed in on their score. We were all soon on the edges of our seats as the remaining runs to achieve grew even smaller. Anxiety coursed through my veins. I became nervous. We were all nervous. In the final over, the Windies women managed to out one of the batswomen, but even as we cheered, unfortunately, I knew we had already been defeated. And in the end, we lost by one run with one ball left.
Despite our team’s defeat, it had been a good match. I’m not going to get into the “We could have won if…” commentary, as I am no cricket expert. Both sides played well. In fact, I was quite surprised by the agility and prowess of our Windies women cricket team. As I had never seen them play before, I did not have much of an expectation. But they surely surpassed any doubts I may have had buried in my subconscious.
Good game, good food, good company. It was a very enjoyable night and entertaining match, and I cannot wait to attend another game.