Australia star Lisa Sthalekar took time out on a family holiday around South America to show her support for women's cricket in Argentina. This is her account of the trip.
Buenos Aires was the last stop that my father and I made on our South American holiday. One of the first things that I noticed was how green everything was and the amount of parks they had - it was a shame that the weather wasn't warmer to really enjoy it.
Over a period of couple of days I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the Argentine men's and women's squads. I initially spoke to the men's squad about how I prepare as an individual for major tournaments and how the teams that I have been involved in also prepare. The men's squad and the Australia women's team are very similar as we are both amateurs trying to juggle full time work/study and our ever increasing cricket commitments.
The rest of my time was with the women's squad. It was great to see how keen all the players were and willing to get stuck in and try things that they had never experienced before, even like a good old Aussie fitness session.
In Argentina, cricket is played amongst a small group of families and the game is passed on from generation to generation. Therefore within the women's squad there are two sets of twins, four sisters from the one family and plenty of other siblings playing game. Not only is the game passed down from generation to generation, but it seems like the gear once used by their fathers and/or brothers is used by the girls. The girls don't have the luxury to train with the correct sized cricket ball, 142 grams, and the bats they use are too big and heavy, restricting the type of shots they can play. Hopefully I can send some older gear from myself and other players so that they can see and feel the difference.
This doesn't seem to dampen their enthusiasm for the game, as the girls are willing to train under all sorts of conditions including outside during the cold winter, after work and school. A lot of the girls play hockey as it seems to be the number one sport for girls in Argentina, so while all the girls had great hand eye coordination, we just need to harness that into cricket shots and develop a powerful bowling action.
Throughout my time there we focused on drill work emphasising how important it was to practice the basics, but in match-like conditions. Majority of the girls had a sound technique, but lacked power, so as we say in Australia, we had a 'free expression session' where they could hit the ball as hard as they could with no consequences. It was interesting to watch as they started the drill or skill like they normally would, but by the end they were smiling from ear to ear as they could see the improvement.
The final day was spent out in the middle, putting them through their paces in short match like scenarios. Similar to the whole theme of my time with the girls, they improved at such a rate by the end of the day they were taking cheeky singles and some were hitting over the top.
During my short stay both the players and administrators (especially Grant Dugmore, CEO of Cricket Argentina) made me extremely welcome and comfortable in a place that I had never been to. Who would think that I would be involved in some kind of cricket in South America? It just shows how the game has attracted all sorts of people from all corners of this globe.
I throughly enjoyed my time in Argentina, the girls were wonderful and even put up with my lack of Spanish! I wish them and the men's team all the best in their upcoming tournaments and I will be watching their progress with a close eye.