Crowdfunding to aiming for the stars: Cricket Brasil story

It all changed in 2020 when Cricket Brasil became the first associate nation to give central contracts to female players before the men.

MUMBAI: When Roberta Moretti Avery was called up by a North American organisation to train with Charlotte Edwards and Suzie Bates in 2017, she had already represented Brazil for three years. She was the MVP (Most Valuable Player) in the South American Championship that had happened the year before. At that point, Avery thought that was her peak. She had no clue who Edwards or Bates were.

“I was like ‘who are these people’? I didn’t know them because we didn’t have access to women’s cricket. We didn’t have access to women’s games. We didn’t have any visibility, we couldn’t see what was happening in the world,” the Brazil captain tells this daily. When they got to watch the 2017 Women’s ODI World Cup, that is when Avery and her teammates realised the quality of world cricket. For her, it was the turning point; watching Edwards and Bates go about their business when she played and trained with them was inspiring.

“When you see players like those, you start to say, ‘you know what, these players are inspirations. This is what we can achieve’. So, I guess the whole idea of we cannot be what we cannot see started with that training camp with Edwards and Bates. And that made me come back to Brazil and say, ‘guys, what we’re doing here is good, but we can be much better, we can go much higher. These are the new role models that we have to follow’.” In a football nation like Brazil, cricket is still a very young sport. The cricket association was started only in 2001, but at that point, it was an expat organisation as they were not affiliated with the ICC. It took another eight years to get that integration.

In fact, Avery did not play cricket till she was 27. Predominantly a golfer, she was introduced to the sport by her husband who is from England. When she started playing in 2013, it was only for fun. At that time, mounting a net and demounting it all by themselves used to take more time than the actual sessions they used to have. Till 2019, the players paid for their trips, kits, and uniform and had no income from the sport. To quote Avery, “it was a competitive hobby.” The association was crowdfunded. The jerseys and kits, used and handed-down uniforms of England and Australian cricketers were donated by The Lord’s Taverners. When the whole container arrived, they did not even know the names on the jersey. It made them look the names up on the internet and learn their stories; the kids started to emulate Shane Warne, Lasith Malinga and so on.

It did not stop there. In fact, the players from Avery’s region, most of them from challenging backgrounds, used to get together and make a plan every year on how to fund their cricket. “They could not afford their kits, uniforms, they hadn’t even travelled past the state, leave alone the country. We would do yard sales, clothing sales, sell chocolates at traffic lights, the raffles. We made a plan as a group like ‘you make the chocolate, you are responsible for the money, we are going to sell this, that.’ We worked together to make this happen. We remember that. They played not only for the shirt or for the country but they played to remember how hard they had to work for it.”

It all changed in 2020 when Cricket Brasil became the first associate nation to give central contracts to female players before the men. All they had to do from thereon was focus on cricket. In fact, to ensure that cricket did not become an expat sport, Cricket Brasil started pathway programs to ensure women remained in the game.

“Today, we travel to Mexico, Rwanda, USA, and all of it is paid for. They have uniforms, physical coaches, mental coaches, assistant coaches all of that. Now they play for the shirts, they play for the team, for the country, without having to worry about anything financially.” Avery and teammate, Laura Cardoso, is in Mumbai as a pit stop on their way to the FairBreak tournament in Hong Kong. They are here to launch and amplify the ‘Cricket Like A Girl’ campaign on Sunday at the WPL final. The campaign is about a softball tournament for kids from the projects in Poços de Caldas, the city where Avery is from. It has more registered cricketers than footballers.

“It’s interesting because the pathway is no longer about only the national team. Your ceiling is not the national team, it is the FairBreak tournament. You can go and play outside. Maybe in the future, to have a player at The Hundred or a player in the WBBL or WPL. Why not? It’s thinking about how high the Brazilian players can reach, giving an opportunity, and making sure the pathway is over there for them to achieve it.”

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