Women Should Be In Control

Date Published: 
Stabroek News
Eileen Cox

"Cricket, lovely cricket" We were told in the 1970s that cricket was okay for Trinidadian and Barbadian women but it was not for Guyanese women.

We have come a long way now in the new millennium when it is not only accepted that Guyanese women play the game, but the Guyana Cricket Board of Control has a hand in the arrangements for a women's cricket team to travel to St Vincent on May 20 to take part in a Caribbean Women's Cricket Competition.

In the 1970s it was Mr Lallchan of Guyana Sales Inc, 44 Robb Street, Georgetown, who conceived the idea of forming a women's cricket team. He had very successfully organised young men from villages to participate in third class cricket competition.

Mr Lallchan discussed the matter of training women cricketers with Mr Aubrey Bishop and then approached me to play a role in the All Stars Women's Cricket Club, which transformed the lives of many women.

1977 and 1978 were years of great activity. All Stars participated in men's third-class cricket competition. Invitations flowed in for the team to travel to several community centres on east and west coasts of Demerara. The team played at Leonora, Lusignan, McDoom, Belle Vue, Hope, Bartica. Practice sessions took place at the Guyana Sports Club. The Police Training School arranged physical training for members of the club.

All these arrangements were made by Mr Lallchan. He devoted much time to the development of women's cricket.

The name of All Stars went abroad and soon there were invitations from overseas. A Trinidad team, the Merry Girls, organised by the Brown family of Port-of-Spain visited Guyana and an All Stars team went to Trinidad. We participated in the Women's Caribbean Cricket Association and later formed the Guyana Women's Cricket Board of Control.

At one stage, Ave Mogan was selected to join the Caribbean Women's Cricket Team in a tour of India but funds were not available. In March, 1981, Margaret Walcott was selected by the Guyana National Women's Cricket Association for the Caribbean Women's participation in the Women's World Cup. She could not go.

In Guyana, in the 1970s, men were reluctant to see women developing. Whenever we set out to organise ourselves, we were told by the men that they liked us as we were, that is, I presume, docile, drafting and typing their letters, preparing their tea and seeing our goal as limited to auxiliaries of men's organisations.

Thus the big furore came when All Stars were invited to participate in a Caribbean Women's Cricket Competition in 1977. The team was chosen and there was perfect harmony. Then in stepped the advisers to the Minister of Sport, Shirley Field-Ridley.

They claimed that the ministry must choose the team. They omitted two of our best players, a spin bowler, Teresa Benjamin of Wauna, and a wicket keeper. We in the All Stars Club objected but we needed money to travel and the minister's advisers won the day.

We were particularly upset that Teresa, from the North West District, was omitted because of the fillip it would have given to other budding cricketers in that district, one of the most depressed in Guyana.

Today, we are again witnessing men in control. Teresa has again been omitted from the team to travel to St Vincent for the upcoming Caribbean Women's Cricket Competition. She attended the practice session on May 10, but was never given a chance to prove her mettle. Her experience did not count.

Dolly Lokanan, who, as Dolly Seeraj, had been a member of All Stars, struggled successfully to have the ministry introduce cricket to schoolgirls. When she died in January this year the Stabroek News published a letter from me in which I suggested that the Ministry of Sport should advertise for a successor to Dolly. I mentioned the names of Margaret Walcott, Joni James and Teresa Benjamin. No action has been taken and the post remains vacant.

That a team is going to St Vincent has given me great joy but I am not happy about the manner of selection. They go to represent Guyana, not the ministry and we, as citizens, should be allowed to speak out or this control by men will continue.

The All Stars Women's Cricket Club spearheaded women's cricket in this country. The members of the club were exposed to first-class women's cricket and third-class men's cricket. A team from India visited Guyana and our women performed successfully. Our team visited Suriname. In Trinidad they played against teams from Trinidad and Jamaica.

Yes, younger women should be given a chance but they must be trained over a stretch of time. There should not be a last minute selection.

Lastly, let me mention Ave Mogan, who was one of the outstanding members of the team. Ave was recognised as the most stylish of the batsmen. (Please don't speak of batswomen.) She migrated to Canada with her family and captained a male team in Toronto. With Ave in a team, all the shortcomings of other players are forgiven.

I end with a plea that women will come forward and lead women cricketers, that women be trained as umpires and broadcasters, that all aspiring players take the game seriously and understand that discipline is necessary and discipline begins with self-discipline.