“Run, run, run!” urged Sadia, as two girls ran with all their might between the makeshift wickets. At the other end of the street, another girl hurried after the ball and hurled it back towards the wicket as the umpire, a man dressed in a green shirt, moved away quickly to avoid being hit. The ball missed the wicket by inches. The over came to an end and so did the game.
This may sound like any top of the hat cricket match on the streets of Karachi where soft drink crates serve as wickets and the rules of hitting a particular tree or a house renders a player out. But it is not. Fifteen young girls of varying ages came out of their houses to play cricket on a street in Defence, as speeding cards zoomed past them, some slowing down to get a better look at what the girls were up to.
As some girls tried their hand at batting, with an occasional high strike, others settled for bowling. “I’m not really a sports person,” said a young girl dressed in a pink top, only to be seen later bowling in a straight fashion, not wanting to be left out.
Natasha Ansari and Sadia Khatri, the organisers of the match, said that they used to play a lot of cricket back during their time at Mount Holyoke College. “The idea is about increasing women’s access to public spaces. It felt heightened when we came back home as we didn’t get the opportunity to play cricket here,” explained 25-year-old Natasha, drenched in sweat after the match.
The cricket match is an extension of 24-year-old Sadia’s venture ‘Girls at Dhabas’, a movement generated on social media. Speaking about her love for dhabas, where the girls occasionally hang out for light snacks and steaming cups of tea, she said it is a cheap way of having fun. “Our women seem more in a mental block. They don’t step out of their houses much. Whatever little they do come out for is to sit in the car, travel to a particular place and that’s it,” opined Natasha about the restricted mobility of women.
The group of young women will be hosting more matches in the future. “We will go out more in the open as we first wanted people to get comfortable,” said Sadia. Next in the pipeline is bicycling, as the group occasionally cycles around the neightbourhood. “It is an open group for all those who want to join us. Think of things that you all want to do outside your homes,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2015.