On the 1st of June, for the first time not just in Kolegaon but the entire surrounding region of 27 villages – there was an all-girls’ cricket match! The match was between Kolegaon’s first girls’ cricket team and Bamanwada’s first girls’ cricket team – breaking the myth that girls don’t play cricket at the community level. The objective was to claim the playground for girls, sensitise the community to accept girls in public places and advocate with local leaders for accessible playgrounds for girls.
Over the last month, girls from both communities have been training to play the game, and have formed teams in their respective areas through the guidance of other youth. For first time players, the teams played exceptionally well – winning the genuine respect of the earlier sceptical crowd watching them. We must also appreciate the few male youth leaders who had helped coach their area’s teams and were also there during the match taking care of logistics, cheering them on and generally being a positive support system. The girls began with some hesitation – the first time for many of them to not only play the game, but to play it in front of the entire village. Slowly they gained confidence, forgetting the pressure of it all and started enjoying the game.
It was an incredibly proud moment when the almost all-male audience in the stands erupted in cheers as the girls started playing feistily – hitting fours and sixes, and taking wickets with some good bowling. Not only were the teams all-female, the umpires too were young women cricket players from nearby Panvel.
The excitement of the village was on a high as the home team of Kolegaon, despite a strong opposition from the team from Bamanwada, won two matches thereby winning the championship, along with Best Batswoman and Best Bowler trophies. However the Best all-round player went to Bandana Pandey of the Bamanwada Team.
The biggest achievement was when community leaders of Kolegaon volunteered their vocal support to a girls’ playground in the area, or to make the existing grounds accessible to girls and young women.