Earlier this year, the BBC made Bats, Balls and Bradford Girls, a documentary about Britain’s first all-Asian girls’ cricket team, following them during their last summer of training together. Having started the team at their school in Bradford, Yorkshire four years ago, the girls took to the sport as naturals despite never playing before. In fact, many of the girls’ only experience of cricket was the men in their family watching it on the television.
For many members of the team, cricket gives them an opportunity for independence, to leave the house on their own and do something they love. In the documentary, many of the girls mention the difficulty they have found playing cricket as part of the local Pakistani community. The belief amongst this community is typically that cricket is a boy’s sport, and the girls have had to battle this throughout their four years playing together. They have also faced discrimination from some of the teams and spectators they have played. As most girls’ cricket teams in the UK are from elite schools, they have been laughed at and disrespected because some of them wear headscarves and cover their arms.
The girls discuss in-depth the limited opportunities Asian girls have to play sport and how important cricket has been to them. Jasmin explains how, as a carer to her mum, the cricket team has enabled her to play sport as a young carer. Another of the girls, Zainab, discusses the limitations she has imposed on her by her family, as they do not like her to be out of the house unaccompanied. At one point during the documentary, Zainab misses two weeks of training because there is no one to chaperone her; she finds this exceptionally frustrating, as do the rest of her team.
Despite the adversity the teenage girls have faced, the team have been exceptionally successful, becoming Yorkshire Champions, one of the top school sides in the country and only missing out on the title of National Champions by one run. These girls are undoubtedly talented! They are challenging their own community’s stereotypes: “We just want to prove that if boys can play cricket, girls can” says one of the team members Zaira. As the girls go on to study and do other things, they all say they owe a lot to cricket, breaking barriers, finding independence, and ultimately developing as people.
Watch Bats, Balls and Bradford Girls on BBC iPlayer now.
Girl Museum Inc.