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AIWCA: For girls who eat, sleep, dream cricket

A newly-formed cricket association in Sydney, AIWCA, has returned from its first tour of India with an all-girls under-17 team

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“In India, I noticed it did not matter to anyone how the pitch condition was,”  youth cricketer Aanya Siingh recounted after a recent tour. “Instead, what mattered to the players was the hunger to play and that is just amazing to watch.”

She led an all-girls under-17 tour to India in April this year, competing in seven matches in Delhi and Jaipur.

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U/16 Girls team representing AIWCA for the first time in a trial match against the Canterbury-Wests U/14 Moore Shield Boys team | Source: Facebook

The tour was organised by the newly launched Australia India Women’s Cricket Association (AIWCA) in Sydney – led by head coach Ron Woods and manager Bruce G Wood OAM. It was undertaken in partnership with the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai & Hills District Cricket Coaches’ Association Inc. (HKHDCCA) and the Northern District Cricket Club.

AIWCA is a beacon of opportunity for young female cricketers in Australia. Its mission is clear: to provide exemplary leadership in the Australia-India female cricket community and offer young girls quality development and high-level playing opportunities, both domestically and internationally.

The tour became as much about personal growth as about cricket, for the young team of 14 players. For eight of the players who are of Indian origin, the India tour may have been a pilgrimage back to the ancestral roots, but for the team as a whole, it was a journey that transcended cricket.

Head coach Ron Woods and girls’ coordinator Sue Gregory shared how the association worked to promote diversity and inclusion within this mixed team. The strategy, they revealed, revolved around open and transparent communication, involving players, parents, coaches, and tour management.

“Senior players took on mentoring roles, fostering cultural awareness, education, and leadership among the younger team members,” Woods said. “This inclusive environment not only nurtured cricketing skills but also built a community where cultural heritage is celebrated.”

Moreover, all players were rotated throughout the team in various positions and roles in different matches, giving everyone an opportunity to grow and learn under different team dynamics and playing expectations and conditions.

One of the successes on tour was watching the girls improve their performances each match, as they became accustomed to the different pitch conditions and the heat, culminating in an excellent win in the last match of the tour, manager Wood told Indian Link.

Australian player Phoebe Laws, who was part of the U17 team, said this final match in Jaipur was the trip’s highlight. “After a few hard losses, close games and almost two weeks spent together, the team really banded together, backing one another to achieve our first win. The encouragement present on the field that day was unmatched and seeing all of the girls using what we had worked so hard for truly came together.”

 

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She added, “Being able to play in such different and difficult conditions was certainly something that I believe has truly motivated me to work harder and become a better cricketer both physically and mentally.”

For the young captain Aanya Siingh, 17, the love for cricket is linked to her Indian roots.

“My dad’s family is from Uttar Pradesh, and mum’s from Delhi. I have grown up seeing how passionate everyone in my family (from 90-year-olds to 5-year-olds) becomes when they are watching/playing this great sport. As it is rightly said, cricket is a religion in India – not merely a sport!” Aanya laughed.

Being selected as the captain for the Australian tour to India, she claims she felt a surge of pride and responsibility. “My coach and mentor ‘Tiger’ have been working with me for over a year on the mental maturity of cricket – which makes me think outside the box as a leader on the field.”

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Aanya Siingh (Captain) | Source: Instagram

Eighteen-year-old Shree Swarup was the senior-most player on this tour, leading by example.

“Guiding younger players through the complexities of the game enhanced my understanding of cricket from a strategic and psychological perspective,” Swarup said. “Teaching others forced me to analyse my own techniques and strategies more critically, leading to a deeper, more nuanced grasp of the game.”

The India tour included visiting cultural attractions, including the Taj Mahal in Agra, as well as a memorable experience at the Ladli Vocational Training Centre, an orphanage in Jaipur.

Shree recounted, “It was clear that this was more than just a place for the children to stay; it was a nurturing environment focused on empowering them for a better future.”

The hour-long visit to the centre involved dancing and snacking, and became for many of the girls on the team, the highlight of the entire tour.

 All roads lead to cricket!

As AIWCA looks to the future, the stories of these young players will continue to inspire and shape the next generation of female cricketers in Australia. The journey has just begun, and the future holds immense promise for the AIWCA.

Yanee Bhatia, another player on the team who is of Indian descent, reflected on her experiences.

“This India tour has influenced me in a very positive way; it has allowed me to understand how it feels being with a team, having best friends with you all the time, and playing the one game you love the most in a different country,” Bhatia said. “I want to follow cricket to the highest level I can take it to; whether that be for the state or for the country.”

Bhatia’s journey from being the only girl in a boys’ team (when she started playing cricket at 12 at The Ponds Cricket Club) to playing the sport now in India, is an inspiration to many young aspiring cricketers.

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AIWCA in India | Source: AIWCA

Asked to share a piece of advice for young girls out there, vying to be future cricket stars, Bhatia said: “No matter your heritage or who you are playing for, your only focus should be cricket. That should be your heritage. That should be your goal. Just focus; don’t let anything distract you.”

As for AIWCA, the association plans to travel to NZ, Asia and Europe over the next five years.

“Our vision is to create a strong player base with experienced coaches and staff,” Woods concluded.

READ ALSO: More Singhs than Smiths in Australian cricket 

Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Bhosle Chakraborty is a freelance journalist. With over nine years of experience in different Indian newsrooms, she has worked both as a reporter and a copy editor. She writes on community, health, food and culture. She has widely covered the Indian diaspora, the expat community, embassies and consulates. Prutha is an alumna of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru.

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