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First Filipina cricket team ready to rumble

20 November 2017

By Vir B Lumicao 

On a Sunday midmorning, the green cricket field at India Club on Jordan Road in Kowloon is invaded by a group of Filipinas limbering under the guidance of a male Indian coach as they begin a day of practice.

 The players, wearing dark and light blue jerseys and matching dark blue trousers, are full of enthusiasm as they hone up for a sport not too familiar to Filipinos – cricket.

Coach Najeeb Amar (left) assembles the SCC Divas for a pep talk before warming them up.  
 The 20 or so women, in fact, look forward to their debut on the pitch in January 2018 as the first all-Filipina cricket team in Hong Kong, if not in the whole world.

 “This year I gathered players to play cricket in Hong Kong. It is the first ever all-Filipino cricket team,” Arimas told The SUN in an online interview recently.

With their talent, she believes they will be champions in the Hong Kong women’s league in three years.

 The pioneering team is managed by Indian veteran cricketer Animesh Kulkarni, an official of the Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers (Hong Kong, China), a group that looks after all aspects of cricket umpiring and scoring for Hong Kong cricket.

 Cricket is a relatively new sport for Filipinos, whose knowledge of ballgames has been limited to basketball, football, volleyball, baseball, softball, tennis, and golf in that order of popularity.

 In fact, many Filipinos get to see actual cricket matches only when they go outside the country, as the sport that originated in eastern England in the 16th century has become a national sport in former British colonies.

 It would seem that the sport was not introduced or did not take root in the Philippines during the 20 months that Manila was occupied by Britain in 1762-1764.

 Cricket as a sport for Filipinos in Hong Kong appears to be a recent development, with Arimas barely in her third year playing for the Hong Kong Cricket Club women’s team. She helped bring another domestic helper, Zenny Badajos, into the team this earlier year.

 “Naglalaro ako sa HKCC women’s cricket team. Nag-try out ako noong January 2015 at nakuha ako,” Arimas told The SUN. It was through her joining HKCC that she met Kulkarni, who agreed to look for sponsors and manage an all-Filipino women’s team.

With Kulkarni providing the uniforms, gear kits as well as free food and snacks for the team, Arimas founded SCC Divas and spent the past months recruiting players, drawing on her baseball, softball and volleyball connections to assemble her 26-player team.

 The team plays every Sunday at the India Club cricket field under the tutelage of coach Najeeb Amar.

 Cricket is played by two teams of 11 players each on a field with a wicket at either end of a 22-yard pitch. One side scores runs by hitting a hard leather-covered ball with a bat while the other side tries to dismiss the opponents by bowling, catching, and running them out.

 Adjusting to the cricket playing style and game rules has not been difficult for Arimas and Badajos, as both are elite ball players. Arimas and Badajos were both members of the national softball team before they came to work in Hong Kong as domestic helpers.

 Arimas, 49, was a varsity player of the University of Negros Occidental in Bacolod City who played in the Palarong Pambansa, while Badajos, 30, played for the University of the Philippines Diliman varsity team. Both played for Philippine Sluggers in the Hong Kong Baseball Association women’s league, and for Fate, an all-Filipino team, in the SAR’s women’s softball league.

 The SCC Divas founder said she has played baseball, soft ball and volleyball, as well as joined beauty pageants in Hong Kong. On Friday nights, she joins the HKCC women’s team training at the club’s Wong Nai Chung Gap field.

 Arimas continues to recruit players, picking OFWs who can play, are interested in the game, and come from baseball, softball and volleyball.

 “This is amazing because it’s the first time in history that Filipinas here play cricket,” Arimas said, saying that all her players have the ability to bat, bowl and throw the ball. “Practice lang ang kulang,” she added.

 Looking beyond Hong Kong, Arimas said that when she returns home for good, she would help propagate cricket in the Philippines by setting up teams. “Filipinos are good at ballgames,” she said.

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