Cricket is one of the fastest-growing women's and girls' sports.
And as part of Women's Big Cricket Month, we're sharing the inspirational stories of some of the many women playing – and driving change – in our game.
Petrina Drury has made time for cricket.
The 45-year-old teacher and mother of Ianna had only picked up a cricket bat when playing at the beach or in the park with her family, until last year, when she became inspired by the growth of the women’s team at Sheffield Collegiate Cricket Club.
“Local clubs are full of local people with the same outlook. You don’t need to be any good, just look to learn something new.”
She signed up to the first ever all female ‘Super Over’ competition with her daughter and daughter’s friend Hannah, in the hope the young girls would get something out of it. Since then, they have attended weekly training and participate in matches.
Petrina’s confidence has experienced a turnaround since being involved in cricket, she loves being part of a team and the WhatsApp banter.
“Coaches and teammates are so friendly and encouraging and over time, without realising, you are improving. I’m far more confident now than I was a year ago.’
Juggling teaching, being a mother and wife, it can be difficult to fit a hobby in but “I carve out time for myself. I leave work on time to attend training, even during stressful times when it was the last thing I felt like doing. I knew it was needed.”
“Cricket is for any females who need to find something for themselves. My scoresheets are a testament to how much I have enjoyed taking part, I’m improving and learning all the time!”
“Cricket isn’t for a certain person, it’s for everyone! No matter your age, religion, ethnicity or gender.”
These words are shouted from the rooftops by Shivanie Patel, founder of Bradford Park Avenue Ladies (BPAL) cricket club.
“I’ve been playing cricket since I was eight. My dad and brother loved it and I did everything my brother did, so naturally when he joined a cricket team, I followed behind.”
Since then, Shivanie has fallen in love with the sport and dedicated her life to it. She became a part of the ECB’s Dream Big Desi Women Project becoming an activator for the All Stars Cricket programme to encourage more people to get involved.
Along with a team of ladies she played in a cricket tournament with last August, Shivanie decided to start a cricket club to inspire women and girls in Bradford to feel part of the sport she loves.
“We have gone from strength to strength and now have over 40 regular members at BPAL. It’s been an incredible journey so far and we’ve only just begun. Cricket is a sport for anyone and everyone. It’s a sport that’s great for you physically and mentally.”
Shivanie hopes that women’s cricket continues to go from strength to strength.
“It’s incredible to see so many women playing cricket now and opportunities in all areas of the game, whether that’s coaching, playing, scoring or umpiring – which was very different from when I started playing.
“Women’s contribution to the sport has grown massively. There’s always room for improvement but we’re heading in the right direction”
“This season, due to COVID 19, was a challenge, but has been a total blessing as well”.
This is the view of Clare Watson-Spence, a member of Grace Dieu Cricket Club in Leicestershire.
The pandemic has given Clare and the club a chance to explore different options to enjoy the game, whether it’s Kwik Cricket, softball, Super 8’s and hardball.
“This season we have had a ladies team developing and played our first hardball game. We also have second-team matches and some young ladies coming through the junior game. We now have over 30 ladies that come regularly to play.”
For Clare, cricket is an opportunity.
“This is the chance for ladies to feel part of a team, involved in sports and sharing laughs and newfound friendship. Our younger members are enjoying making new friends, team bonding, but also playing and the challenge that it gives.”
Clare doesn’t want it to stop there.
“We’ve gone from being mums, wives and sisters of the players to being families within the club, who all play. There could be so much more of this over time.
“All of the opportunities we get to develop the game we will endeavour to do so, we can’t wait!”
The mindset that cricket is just a game for men and boys is a thing of the past.
That’s what Mina Zahoor, who run Bolly Cric-Hit, a combination of Bhangra (upbeat Asian Music) and fitness, combined with softball cricket, preaches.
“Cricket, especially in the South Asian community, has traditionally not been a game for women and girls but Bolly Cric-Hit has helped change this and given females of the household the chance to participate and enjoy themselves.”
Mina has driven a shift in how South Asian women view cricket. “When Bolly Cric-Hit started off, it was myself, my mum and sister coming together and trying something different. We enjoyed it, laughed a lot and had so much fun.”
Anyone can turn up to classes, exercise to the music, play a bit of cricket and join in with the fun without needing any skill.
“We play with a stress ball, which puts a lot of women at ease who have fears of playing cricket with a hard ball. We remove any perception of getting hurt whilst playing the game we love!”
Although COVID forced a halt to the indoor classes, Mina and the ladies who take part all stick together, constantly messaging each other and keeping the spirits going. “These ladies might not have had the opportunity to meet and connect, but cricket is a powerful connector”.
You won’t find many prouder of the strides women’s cricket has taken than Leshia Hawkins, the first female CEO of Cricket Wales.
“I am proud and privileged to be in the position I’m in and positive that the future is bright for women and girls in this game.”
Such a position of responsibility, she believes, is having a profound impact on participation.
“I never thought being a woman had any relevance to my ability to carry out my role, but after visiting Cardiff Cricket Club, I came to realise the impact of being in a position of profile on the women and girls there.
“I am now more cognisant that being a female in this role might be quite aspirational and important to others. I think people are really starting to feel a clear message – there is a place and a future for women in this game at all levels and I couldn’t be prouder to think that I am playing a small part in that.”
Leshia Hawkins – CEO, Cricket Wales
Banishing gender stereotypes within the game is something Leshia believes will drive it forward.
“I have started to reflect on how this role allows me to influence mindsets that might have previously existed in cricket and shift perceptions about females in the game. Society is culturally and gender diverse, so there is no reason why sport – and cricket especially – should not reflect this.”
For Leshia, increasing the visibility of women and girls in the game is something that needs to continue to happen.
“Whether it’s coaches, officials, participants, administrators, volunteers or any other role in cricket, I want women to feel encouraged, and entitled, to pursue them. I hope when other clubs see clubs that are achieving gender balance, they will be less daunted about considering having an offer for women and girls.”
“I also want to foster a culture at Cricket Wales that ensures women are equitably represented in everything we do, from the boardroom, through our paid staff and in our content and communications.”
Cricket Wales has successfully implemented a significant amount of softball cricket and festivals and actions are being put in place to increase hardball opportunities with more teams, more fixtures and formalised leagues.
“We want to create as many opportunities as possible for women and girls regardless of their postcode or ability, to access cricket in a safe and fun way, whichever playing offer or pathway they choose to take.”
The introduction of a new women’s elite domestic structure has “given young girls a chance to realise there is a feasible and achievable career in cricket, it’s given girls something to aspire to”.
As a player for Middlesex Cricket and the newly formed Sunrisers, Cordelia Griffith is a shining example of how new opportunities to progress through the women’s game are being grabbed with both hands.
The 25-year-old daughter of former Derbyshire all-rounder Frank Griffith has always set her sights on reaching the top.
She got into County Cricket aged nine, playing for Essex U11s, before working her way through the County pathway, captaining the U11s through to U15s before taking on the captaincy of Essex Women in 2016.
Alongside this, she was involved in the England academy for a number of years and captained the England U19s, having first been selected at the age of 13.
Frank had a profound impact on Cordelia’s desire to play professionally.
“My dad was my main inspiration to take up cricket. Seeing him play the sport that he loved professionally encouraged me to do the same. My parents have always encouraged me to follow my passion for the game and have supported me throughout my journey.
“I cannot thank them enough for driving me around the country, being at every match to support and the endless hours of coaching my dad has put in. Without them none of this would have been possible.”
Cordelia has always mixed playing cricket with pursuing a career in law, something she has a passion for. She graduated with an LLB in Law and received a distinction in a Masters of International Law and was at the point of applying for a legal training contract, before playing cricket took over.
“Cricket is my passion and always has been, so it is only natural to want to play it to the highest level that I can possibly achieve.
“From a young age I was never afraid of hard work and I believed that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. Obtaining one the new professional contracts with the Sunrisers is a fantastic achievement and a great opportunity to hopefully strive towards the ultimate dream of playing for England.
“Even though I went to university and completed two law degrees, I was still able to follow my dream of becoming a professional cricketer and I hope that other young aspiring cricketers realise that they, too, can achieve both.”
Obtaining a professional contract with the Sunrisers has been the highlight of Cordelia’s career so far, but she also relished in beating Surrey in the 2019 Royal London One-Day Cup at Lord’s.
“I remember as a young girl in 2006, having just started my cricketing journey, going to Lord’s to watch England Women vs India, and I never would have thought that 13 years later, I would be back at one of the greatest cricket grounds as a Middlesex player.”
For Cordelia, she’s living a dream now and “I want girls to believe that with hard work and dedication, you can achieve yours too!”