Community is the emphasis of the Madison Women’s Cricket League – Isthmus

Like many of the women scattered around the lush, green field at Haen Family Park on an ideal early summer evening, Sumudu Jayawickrama started playing cricket only three years ago.

“My husband, our four kids, all play cricket. But not me,” she says. “Watching our husbands play matches, some of us thought, ‘Oh, we should start something for the women, too!’”

As a child in Sri Lanka, Jayawickrama says, cricket was available for girls to play, but she wasn’t much interested in the sport. Many of the other players say they’ve dabbled in other sports, but hit pause when they started families. They started playing cricket together in 2021, coming out of the COVID pandemic.

“It’s not so much about the playing, but the community and meeting people,” Jayawickrama says, pointing out that most of the players in the league are South Asian. “Everybody has two or three kids. We are all busy. But we make time to come to practices. It’s a commitment to get together and play as a team.”

Jayawickrama, who works as a relationship banker with BMO Harris, is captain of the Lady Lions, one of four teams in the Madison Women’s Cricket League. The Wisco Knockouts is the other Madison-based team, while the YCW Ravens and Panthers are from Milwaukee. A fifth team, the Wonder Women, is on hiatus this summer. The teams will play a round robin over five weeks on Saturdays and Sundays, starting on July 20. Matches are split between Haen and Lindsay Park in Milwaukee.

As competitive as the matches are, they also serve as the centerpiece for weekend afternoon picnics.

“The games are long and there’s a break of 45 minutes to an hour, in the middle,” says April Anderson, another third-year player. “Everybody brings their families and multiple hot dishes to share.”

“It’s a feast,” adds Andrea Southgate.

As much as cricket resembles baseball, the mechanics of batting and pitching — or bowling — are different. This season, many of the players are learning the overarm bowling motion, a straight-arm, overhead delivery with a running start. In previous seasons, players in the league threw the ball more like baseball players.

“The international cricket rules say you have do overarm bowling. We thought, we’ve been playing for three years, and you have to improve, right? So this is the next step,” says Seema Narman, who is transitioning from wicket-keeper to bowler. “Cricket has so many rules! And when you just start, there’s so much to learn. But it’s fun because we’re meeting lots of ladies at the same time.”

Narman, a project manager with the state Department of Transportation, is captain of the Knockouts. She says a community existed among South Asian women in Madison, “but we became friends because of cricket. On each team, only 11 play in a match. But you need extra players, so you have at least 20 members. Twenty ladies come and mingle, so now 20 families know each other.”

One significant development from the community that has grown out of the women’s league is the formation of a youth league. Hyma Chinta, who heads up communications for the league, says it’s more popular than they anticipated.

“I had to tell the parents, ‘I need you to confirm if your kid is going to make it or not, because there are more waiting to play,” she says.

The Lady Lions play the Knockouts at 10 a.m. on July 20 at Haen Family Park, located on the corner of North High Point Road and Tree Lane on the west side. All four teams in the league will be in action at Haen on July 21 at Haen, with matches starting at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

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