When Barcelona gave its citizens the chance to vote on a â¬ 30million package of new facilities ranging from cycle paths to playgrounds, officials were puzzled when the proposal that garnered the most votes was the creation of a cricket ground.
The leather crack on the willow isn’t a sound you associate with the Catalan capital, but out of 822 projects the cricket ground got the most votes. All thanks to a campaign led by a group of young women.
âIt all started three years ago in high school when the gymnastics teacher said, ‘Okay, we’re going to start a cricket club after school hours. Who’s leaving? Said Hifsa Butt, 20, the oldest in the group.
The women, all from Pakistani and Indian families, had no idea of ââthe rules of cricket when the club was announced – and neither did their Spanish gym teacher. Their first coach was a Latin American rugby player and she had never played cricket either. However, Butt’s father had been an accomplished cricketer. âHe taught us a lot about how to play and then we went out on our own,â she said.
An indoor cricket league has been established but the aim is to play 11-a-side cricket on real ground. Until recently, they played on weekends at the MontjuÃ¯c baseball field, but now that the baseball season has started, they have nowhere to play.
âAll the people behind this project are girls,â the group wrote in their proposal. âThe training gives us a safe space to feel empowered as women and where we can freely develop our skills. At the same time, our goal is to create a Catalan women’s cricket eleven.
âWe want to play cricket properly, with 11 players, with a hard ball and not a tennis ball like we use it indoors,â Butt said. “So now we need a suitable cricket pitch with real grass, not synthetic.”
This can be a tall order. âFinding a flat area covering 16,000 square meters in Barcelona is impossible,â said Damien McMullen, Australian President of Barcelona International Cricket Club. The is a plan, however, to convert the JuliÃ de Capmany dirt field in MontjuÃ¯c, a shallow hill with a flat top, into an Astroturf cricket ground, and it was this 1.2 million euro proposal that hit the board for six people when it has won the most votes.
McMullen said there are at least 20 teams competing in the Catalan Cricket Federation, with around 700 players between them. There are also teams in Madrid, Alicante, Valencia and Menorca.
Some, like Menorca, are almost entirely English, while his includes players from New Zealand, South Africa, England, India and Pakistan. Several teams in the league are entirely Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi.
Nadim Arman, president of nearby Badalona Cricket Club, whose members are almost entirely from Pakistan and Bangladesh, said he wanted support from people from countries outside of cricket.
“The problem is we have nowhere to play and that makes it hard to get people interested,” he said, but confirmed McMullen’s claim that despite the odds, cricket Catalan has exploded in recent years.
Butt said that in addition to dreaming of going pro, they saw themselves as ambassadors for the game. “We are from Pakistan and India, countries that know cricket, but we also want to spread the news of the game in Spain, âshe said.