Birmingham: Despite growing up in a family that loves cricket, Asma Ajaz Ali was denied the opportunity to experience the sport when she was a teenager. Now at 46, the third-generation British Pakistani is helping women of South Asian-origin break socioeconomic and cultural barriers with cricket as an empowering tool.
“Cricket is seen as an upper-middle-class, white-person sport, played in a nice, green, leafy club. And it poses a variety of barriers for women to go out and enjoy the game. As a kid, I loved cricket, but they didn’t allow me to play. It was hard as I couldn’t follow my passion. It’s all because we didn’t have any female coaches,” said Asma, who is in-charge of ECB’s ambitious South Asian Action Plan in Birmingham which aims to develop 2,000 players and mentors.
Asma runs cricket sessions at temples, mosques, gurudwaras and community centres so that families have no reservations in sending women out. “They can’t go to clubs and their families don’t allow them to train with men. They want to go to an environment where female coaches impart training.
“It’s a million dollar question why it has taken so long for us to realise that women from South Asia need to be empowered. Cricket, which is extremely popular among the community, is a great tool for empowerment.
When children see their mothers hold a bat and play, they feel proud,” added Asma, who was named Warwickshire Cricket Board’s woman coach of the year 2018.
Cultural sensibilities are catered for with some of the venues being indoors and alcohol-free, with organisers providing sports kit that includes head coverings and tracksuits. Among those housewives who train under Asma, majority of them are from India and Pakistan. “Generally, South Asian girls in the UK have done well in academics. The most preferred profession is medicine. There are a few entrepreneurs who run restaurants and boutiques. I would love to see someone making it big in cricket by representing the country,” she said.
England’s men team have seen a few players from South Asian-origin with Moeen Ali and Adil Rasheed being role models. “I learnt my cricketing basics from Moeen’s cousin Kabir Ali who also played for England. He is a pioneer when it comes to coaching women here.
“Moeen, who hails from Birmingham, is a great role model for the community. He started playing on the streets and still lives here. Apart from Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Leicester, London and Manchester are some of the other cities where the population of South Asian families is high,” she said....