Meet the Asian cricketer inspiring young girls in Birmingham - and join the August bank holiday tournament

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Watch the 50 ball women’s and girls’ cricket tournament this Sunday (August 28) at Sheldon-Marlborough Cricket Club

Women are finally getting their time to shine in the world of sport - with icons in football, cricket, field hockey and more. There was a time when people saw no point in encouraging women to play - but that is not the case any more, with many young women flocking to sports traditionally dominated by men. But you don’t have to be a youngster to enjoy sport.

For instance, a ladies football club was formed in Birmingham recently to encourage women to play even if they don’t want to compete professionally, called Ladies Football 4 Fun. It was set up by a two veterans - one is a 42-year-old mother-of-four and another is a 29-year-old woman. They host sessions across Birmingham in places like Shirley, Monkspath, and more.

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Similarly, veteran cricketer Salma Bi is now leading the way in cricket by hosting a 50 ball tournament for over 14 women this Sunday (28 August).

Salma Bi at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in BirminghamSalma Bi at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham
Salma Bi at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham

Salma, a mother-of-four, has been playing cricket since her school days and is a member of the Sheldon-Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). She was a Commonwealth Games 2022 Hometown Hero and took part in the Queen’s Baton Relay.

In 2021, she wanted to host a park league for girls in deprived areas and give them a chance to play the sport just like guys. However, she was told that a league would be difficult since it needs longer committment than a tournament, and girls from Asian communities face restrictions - something Salma is familiar with. Thus, the 50 ball tournament came to be. She’s got participants who are in their teens and those in their late 30s.

Young girls take part in cricket tournamentYoung girls take part in cricket tournament
Young girls take part in cricket tournament

“It's the sports of the year sort of time for us to celebrate with the Commonwealth Games, then we've had the lionesses winning and bringing the trophy home. Now, The Hunddred is being celebrated. So why not? Why not make the most of everything that's happening, and give these girls these opportunities,” said Salma.

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The interest in the tournament was such that she now has a full list of participants and there is a waiting list. “It's amazing to know that all of these girls are Asian and I'm surprised that all love this idea. They heard about it last year, they waiting for me to announce it this year,” she added.

Sheldon-Marlborough Cricket Club was chosen since it’s in a deprived area, where women's cricket is not played often. “We're making a legacy for them as well,” said Salma.

Four teams - Birmingham Phoenix, Trent Rockets, Manchester Originals and Oval Invincibles - will take part in the tournament and she’s assigned players to the different teams to balance out the pool of talent. There are some players who have not played cricket before and this will be their stepping stone. She hopes that some of the players go on into County Cricket and further.

A woman taking part in cricket training sessionA woman taking part in cricket training session
A woman taking part in cricket training session

“Come along, take part, make new friends, and join in this cricket event,” said an excited Salma. She wants to make the game more accessible and show them that cricket is at their doorstep. “It's a fun sport. So, why don't you get involved and it helps you keep fit, physically and mentally,” said Salma.

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Salma also hopes to give back back to the community because she’s played at a high level of cricket. And at this tournament, she’ll be scoring, umpiring and supporting these girls and showing them that they've got potential.

When is the tournament?

The event will take place at Sheldon-Marlborough Cricket Club in Yardley from 10PM to 6PM on 28 August. It’s a free event where kits will be provided and softball rules will apply. The winning team will be given trophies and there’s also food and drinks for the participants. It will be a complete family event with exciting prizes for women and girls - who also get free tickets at Edgbaston for signing up.

There is a bouncy castle for little ones to have fun as well.

Salma Bi, cricketer and MCC memberSalma Bi, cricketer and MCC member
Salma Bi, cricketer and MCC member

Salma’s sporting journey

Her talent was recognised when she was in school but even though her father was from a sporting background, he was not supportive.

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“I thought he would understand and he had watched me play cricket at home. So, he knew how sporty I was,” she said, adding that when she told her parents the sessions would be beyond school hours and on weekends, they were reluctant.

Salma wanted help getting dropped off at different sessions and things got difficult as her father wasn't ready to commit to that and neither was he financially in a position to support her dreams as he was the breadwinner at the time and she has siblings.

She had to make sacrifices and that meant missing sessions. “I missed out on important trials and I wouldn't be selected and that was for obvious reasons of commitment. When I was selected for a club in Redditch, the coach offered pick me up and drop me home.

“That was very helpful, but at the same time I remember my coach used to drop me off late at times because games were unpredictable or he would drop off the other girls before me so, my parents still had a go at me and say, ‘Well, look how late you're coming home.’

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Salma Bi with Birmingham Phoenix’ Abtaha MaqsoodSalma Bi with Birmingham Phoenix’ Abtaha Maqsood
Salma Bi with Birmingham Phoenix’ Abtaha Maqsood

“And I had to listen to all that and think ‘Yes, I am, I have to accept what they are saying I have no control of it because they are not supporting me completely.’ I can't tell my coach drop me off first, and or drop me off at this time. It's not in my control.

“But at the same time, I would bite my tongue because I love the game of cricket. And I thought though, I've got to keep quiet because I wanted to play. I wanted to be selected for bigger teams, I worked hard,” she said.

Things changes after she passed her driving test and she put her foot down. She was also the first in her family to go to university - which was surprising for her father.

“He didn't expect any of his kids to take on education at a further level. And when I did that, and at first he challenged it and said, ‘Well, what you're gonna gain from it and I had to sort of prove it to him I'm not going to waste my life and my time.

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“You think sports does not pay and I'm spending my money on it but I'm not asking anyone for money. I will go out there and travel and do it myself,” said Salma.

She got the chance to play for Worcestershire county and later joined the MCC. “I got to play against Japan. I got to play against Hong Kong. I got to play in the same team as Charlotte Edwards or even Claire Taylor and these are ex England players. So I learned so much and I just thought you know I did it!”

You can contact her at [email protected].

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