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Slough Cricket Club's new u13s girls' side is helping change the mindset for women and girls in the town

League coach Raabia Akhter has been talking to clubs and organisations about launching a girls' cricket team in Slough for the past three years, and this season she’s been able to bring that idea to fruition. Now she aims to grow the women’s game in Slough and change the perception some people have that women can’t or shouldn’t be playing cricket.

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions that have been put in place because of that, a girls’ u13s side has been started at Slough Cricket Club, playing in the Berkshire Indoor League 2020 against four other teams.

And they’ve taken to the competition like ducks to water, moving up to second in the table after five matches when the season was brought to a temporary halt due to lockdown.

Raabia, one of the coaches of the side, says establishing the team has done wonders for the girls’ confidence and self-esteem, while the competition element is improving their teamwork and communication skills. She hopes the club can roll out a women’s team and other girls’ teams in the coming seasons and says there’s a great appetite for female cricket in the area.

“The girls are absolutely loving it,” she said. “It’s helped with their confidence and it’s motivated them.

“It’s helped them put their skills into practice and the teamwork is one of the biggest things to come forward from this.

“With girls’ cricket you find they don’t do a lot of talking in the matches, but this is helping them to understand what teamwork is. They’re supporting each other so well and giving each other encouraging feedback.

“This has been something we’ve wanted to launch for a long time, but we needed to do something about it rather than just talking about it.

“I spoke to the club about getting a team sorted and, although the numbers weren’t great initially, they’ve gone up every year. We then worked with Slough Cricket Club and were also given great support by the Berkshire Cricket Foundation and more recently Breaking Boundaries, who were able to help with funding for coaching and marketing.”

Raabia helped to stage annual cricket festivals for women and girls in the area, which proved a great success and, with the Berkshire Cricket Foundation and Breaking Boundaries supplying much-needed funds, she’s been able to get a girls’ team off the ground. Now that the first side is up and running, she’s confident others will be set up as the appetite for the game grows. This year, of all years, women and girls are keen to get out of the house and be active, she says.

“We had three or four cricket festivals and there were always big numbers who came to them,” she said. “The girls wanted more session and there’s interest in setting up a lady’s team.

“The Berkshire Cricket Foundation and Breaking Boundaries were more than happy to help because they know that the interest in Slough is big and that women want to do more. Women want to be good role models for their daughters and, just generally, they want to feel good about themselves. Playing sport is a way for them to put everything to one side, meet new people and socialise while playing cricket.”

Raabia first got the idea for women’s and girls’ cricket in Slough while playing for a women’s side in Maidenhead. She knew the town had all the right facilities and felt that people were ‘missing out’.

“I was playing in Maidenhead and I wondered, why is there nothing happening in Slough?” she said. “I wanted to set something up to give girls the same opportunities in Slough because the facilities are there. It’s just about having the right people running the right sessions. There’s so much talent in Slough and they’ve been missing out. This is about giving women and girls a platform to come and show their talent.”

Such is the demand for places in the u13s team, Raabia has been forced to rotate the squad, so everyone gets the chance to play. She’s hoping the league will resume and they’ll be able to return to competitive action from December or January.

“They’ve definitely got a chance this season,” she said. “If they continue to work hard, they could definitely come first. Our aim and vision is to build the ladies section now. We’re getting the younger players coming in, but we’ll push to start a women’s team next year. It won’t just focus on cricket, but will be about life skills, helping people with their mental health, socialising.

“We’ll put on community focused sessions where people can let go of their problems. That’s our vision and we want to change the mindset that women don’t play cricket.”

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