Chile National Women Cricket team, popularly known as ‘Las Loicas’, became runners up in 2018 in SAWC (South American Women Championship) and 3rd in 2019. Chile is in the 48th position in ICC Women T20 ranking, behind Argentina and Brazil among the South American Country. Jeannette Cristina Garces Gonzalez, the first-ever captain of the National Women’s Team, has witnessed the growth of women cricket in Chile from the days of its emancipation.
First part of the interview here
Garces has completed her graduation in Arts and also has worked as Audio-Visual Conservator in National Library of Chile. Jennette is fond of music and has designed the Jersey of the National Team. She not only takes care of her game but at the same time she looks after the development of the team.
Jeanette who used to be a right hand batter and a off spinner , later became a left hand batter because the team needs a left hand batter to bring in the variation. Being the captain of her team she herself stood up and took the responsibilities to undergo the necessary changes to be a left hand batters. In the due time it turned out that she is more comfortable, being a left hand batter.
While speaking about her diverse role in the team she said, “We have made a lot of sacrifice for that. But the hardship we face, at the same time, brings a lot of proud within us. We know that we are doing something new and we have ready to pay the price. Beside the captain of the team, I have to manage the team while touring. I have designed our jersey, we have to go to the promotional events and coach the junior players. It’s not that I like to do all the thing by myself all the time, but I don’t have any choice. I love to read books and listen to music in my spare-time. Besides cricket that’s a refuge for me. I have taken admission for the master’s degree and waiting for the normalcy to the comeback.”
Her comments came in the present situation because of the global pandemic novel coronavirus. The entire world has been fighting against COVID-19 where all sporting events have either been cancelled or postponed. Its only time that can tell when the situation gets better. However, leading a side has its pros and cons. While Jeannette Cristina Garces Gonzalez feels a sense of pride that she is the first captain of her nation in Women cricket, on the other hand there lies anguish. She feels bad when girls leave sports due to several reasons.
“I felt bad when I saw girls are leaving the game because of several reasons. Not all the people have that spirit or are ready to sacrifice for the sake of the game. Honestly, I don’t blame them. I would like to have those facilities so that people who love the game can stay around it. Sometimes I try to motivate my teammates. They need to feel that we are not in a position as per as the game is concerned like many other crickets playing nation,” expressed Jeannette Cristina Garces Gonzalez.
“Maybe we will be able to see the development of the game right now. But we need to stick to the game. Because if we don’t, there will be no future of it. We need to look beyond our time. I believe this and try to inculcate within my teammates. May be that the thing, they believe too that why we keep going.”
Jennette Cristina Garces Gonzalez knows that at times it becomes hard for the girls to maintain the same dedication towards a game that seldom finds recognition in public and funds.
“When we went to play the South American Championship in 2018, we have to manage our stay and we have to spend from our own pockets. But last year the Cricket Board gave us some expenses. Economic issues are one of the reasons that some of the girls have found difficult to cope with and has left the game. I don’t blame them as they have their family to look after. Several girls have toiled hard to meet both ends,” shared Jennette Cristina Garces Gonzalez.
Having said that, Jeannette believes that she has come a long way. But that wouldn’t have been having possible without the sacrifice made by her family. However, it’s not the story of her alone.
“Our families support us a lot. Like when we went to play the South American Championship, many families helped us. It wouldn’t have been possible without their moral and financial support. Even when many of us feel down because of the odds, its mom or dad who pushes us to go to the practice session. They keep us charged up. You can see their sacrifices. Some of the family’s don’t go on holiday so that they can use that money towards cricket. Even some of the families have made separate funds from their annual income so that the girl can play cricket, uninterrupted. Some have worked extra hours to earn more so that that could be spent on cricket. Families have modified their life for the love of the game,” she again added.
Apart from her love for South Africa and Mignon Du Preez, captain of a less recognized cricket country also adores Sophie Devine and Mithali Raj. On one of her birthdays, her friend gifted her a book that has among all other sportspeople, a chapter on Mithali Raj. The gift which came as a pleasant surprise for her also increased the love for the game. Rather than a boss she always wanted to be a collaborator.
“Girls do come to me with their issues, and I try to resolve those within my capacities. Yup, sometimes I get frustrated in and out of the filed. The frustration is real. I love to win but sometimes things don’t go as you have planned it. I give my teammates full freedom. They play how they want to play. Yes, we can lose, but you learn in the process. I hope that there will be a domestic Chilean women’s league someday. So, we can play most of the time in the year, not just before the tournament. The SAC is the only tournament in the region.”
“But if you play more matches it will improve the game and will keep the fire inside. At the same time, you can try with more girls for the national team. If there is a competition, it will force you to become the best version of yourself, which will help one to grow as a cricketer and will develop the game in the bigger sphere. In Brazil, I play for San Sebastian Cricket Club in Brasilia, which came up from a social project. That club gave more women a chance to flee from the hardships of daily life and express themselves.”
Though cricket is not very popular in Chile, Jennette Cristina Garces Gonzalez and Co. have taken the challenge.
“In the last three years, we have made a considerable amount of improvement, not only in our games but at the same time have been able to spread awareness about it. We went to schools to promote the game, and we do campaigns on social media platforms. We can see the growing enthusiasm regarding cricket among women. When we first told people about women cricket, they were in utter disbelief. Naturally, they were not in a position to swallow the fact that Chilean women have a national women cricket team and even ICC has given our T20 matches international status. We are also very proud of our team and there are several reasons behind that.”
“If you look at our male counterpart – the team consists of players who originally belongs to several other Asian Countries where cricket is a game to reckon with. But the women team is consists of Chilean women, who have very little prior-experience and exposure to cricket. We are growing, and that’s in the family. Unlike the boys, when we started to play the game, we were completely unaware of it. We neither watched the game on the TV nor we had any idols to follow in front of us. For us, the urge to experience something new came first rather than the cricket as a game”
However, Jeannette is hopeful that things are going to improve with the financial aid and the new ICC Programme, which gives more focus towards the grass-root level. Even the ICC has come up with the MAD (Mother and Daughter) Programme, which she thinks can be beneficial. And with the new directory, she hopes everything will get better soon.
Nelson Mandela once said that sports can create hope where once there was only despair. Jeannette echoed her idol.
“I always wanted to represent my country in sports. But I was playing individual sports, and have never thought of leading a side in team sports, like cricket. I think the world needs to know about the associate nations. I know it not about the main scenario. But cricket is not happening in the main scenario only. We are here as well. When we will give focus on the associate nations, it will eventually help the sports grow.”
“We know our limitations. We are not like England where kids grow up getting all kinds of encouragement, from an idol to equipment, while picking up cricket as a game. But you know what matters the most for us? It’s the little empathy -so that in next day a bunch of girls doesn’t leave cricket for the sake of other proprieties. What keeps us going in all this adversity is that one hopes that people will recognize our efforts someday. They will read about us ad appreciate us one day.”
Years before, one old man had sacrificed his life for eradicating the inequalities, prevailing in the society. And today, that inspires a girl and her team to do that same in a hope that cricket, as Sir Don Bradman said, one day will work as a lighthouse to guide men’s footsteps. The battle continues for them to prove that “sports can create hope where there was only despair.”