By ANISAH ARIF
The much-talked about BBC Three documentary, Bats, Balls & Bradford Girls released last week online, and it is becoming a true sensation.
The film features an all-Asian girl’s cricket team in Bradford, the first of its kind, and their journey towards a final tournament together.
It features a collection of laughs, tears, courage, power, selflessness, and female empowerment.
The team is the first British all-Asian girls team who formed at Carlton Bolling College in Bradford four years ago. Since then they have made national headlines by becoming the North of England champions.
The girls are Hanfia (Captain), and Jasmin, Zainab, Mariyah, Sawiyyah, Zaira and Sabeha who make up the rest of the team. Hami is the team coach who led the girls into victory.
Hami: “It’s good to watch them develop. I have never coached girls before. It was nice to see their improvement over time and how keen they were. They were different to the guys, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well they have improved”.
As well as fighting cultural barriers, curfews, and comments from bypassing folk, the girls have stuck together through their friendship and shocked many.
Earlier last year, the girls took a break from cricket to focus on their GCSE exams. They then spent the summer holidays training for their last ever tournament together before they all part ways for college.
Along the way each girl tells her own story and presents their own personal battles which includes facing backlash from their own communities, as some parents don’t allow or dislike their daughters taking part in sports or staying out late to train.
Some have jobs, other family commitments, so it has been very difficult ride for them.
Hanfia says: “It was really sometimes hard training, whilst studying because we would stay back till 7pm and we would get really tired, but we managed.
“Some of our parents weren’t too keen on us taking part but they came around”.
They’ve had to push hard against these strongly-held views that women can be involved in sports too and proved their success over time by winning every tournament they entered. Their witty behavior has seen them overcome obstacles from every directions and brought them closer together.
Under the guidance of their new coach, Hami, the girls took to the local field to train for their last tournament together. For a few, the cricket pitch is the only place where they can feel like they can be their true selves.
Zainab narrates the film and is the teams star bowler. She is a high achiever and is predicted top marks in her GCSEs. Her dad, Sajid, doesn’t like Zainab leaving the house without a chaperone, so we see her struggle to get to the training sessions.
Hanfia is the dark horse of the team. Always wearing all black hoodies and ripped jeans, the others tease her for being a goth or emo. She used to get into a lot of trouble in school leading to her getting kicked out and only came back to play cricket. Hanfia is looking forward to going to Art College in Leeds in September. Her mum now hopes for her to take a creative course in Leeds.
Hanfia says: “Before cricket we did not know each other, but once together we made a really good bond.
“It was scary being a team captain. Having the rest of the girls look up to you. I got through it”.
Jasmin was born in a refugee camp in Bangladesh just after her father died. Tragically her mother was in a car accident four years ago, leaving her partially paralysed – Jasmin works as one of her mum’s carers. Jasmin is a natural athlete and was scouted for a football scholarship at one of the best schools in America. But her duty to her family and looking after her mum meant she turned it down.
It is a documentary that will surprise and sadden some, but is undeniable that one will not be truly falling in love with the teams charisma and companionship, despite the prejudice they have faced.
This challenging but fulfilling time, without the routine of school and critics, has given the girls a potential possibility to accept and fulfill their future dreams.
It does make one wonder about the challenges that the South Asian communities face, and question integration, especially the younger generation. The distinct agenda set by some cultures makes it very hard for some, especially women to step out of the lines that have been put there.
Some of them fan-girled over Joe Root and rejoiced taking selfies with Jonny Bairstow, proving the true innocence.
The final tournament took a wrong turn and didn’t take place, much to the girl’s disappointment. But what they have left with is a hundred moments close to their heart, and the smell of the cricket grass will forever be remembered.
The feeling most viewers will be left with is, where does the road take them for them next? Into the cricket pitches further or perhaps a slightly different route academically?
We can only wait and find out.