A confidence crisis in the heart of Italy and how to be a girl cricketer.

cricket legs

The other day we were invited in to Perugia to go to a cricket match in a tiny weeny street in Perugia. We fell upon an international oasis of joy. There was an Australian team, headed up by one Australian and his various team mates who were from Bangladesh, Italy, Belgium and the UK. Then there was Italian team, headed up by a lot of Italians a few English. It was fun. I cannot describe how small the pitch was, it was in one of those Italian streets that a small mini can only just squeeze down. When the ball was hit it rebounded off the walls, or off people.

When a car or a lady with a pram needed to go by the whole game stopped. It was chaotically beautiful in the way that Italy can be. Then I was asked to be on the team, I had a moment of anxiety, I became sweaty. I know how to play cricket, I really know, I played every summer for years and years so I know it in my bones but I went blank. Anxiety. My daughter was asked to join as was my son, Olive my other daughter stood at the sides cuddling her Dad, she had a cold but was supporting from the side. It seemd that with my son nothing phased him, he was yelling in Italian when a car was coming, ‘Oh C’E UNA MACCHINA!!!’ he jumped in with both feet, figured out the rules. He was the boy with the big shirt and the small face staring down his opponents.

But I was sweaty, I got the fear, I kept eying my husband and telepathically telling him to take my place for the fear of what an arse I would make of myself. Then OH a voice said, ‘Step up! What are you modelling here…?’ ‘Oh OK’ I replied to the inner ‘big me’ that is much better than that rubbish version of me. Then the loud lovely Australian said ‘Do you know how to bowl?’ and the big me said ‘Ha, Yeah’ (like I do it every day…)

Then I stepped up to bowl and I tried to bowl like a proper cricketer, that whole arm going round in a circle kind of thing and I did a crap bowl. Nobody cared, so I did another one, which was good and then the ‘big me’ air punched (in my head, not in real life) and I carried on. Until I actually nearly got someone out. I stepped up. Then the next up was my daughter, she shook when she took the ball and fear ran across her face like a fast train.

She stepped back then splendidly threw the ball up high and to the extreme left across the restaurant roof and stood there. I could feel her whole world expand and shrink at the same time, I could see in that instant the shame of the crap ball and like in slow mo I thought ‘nooooooo’ (do that ‘noooo’ voice, you know when someone is about to die in a film voice) ‘Noooooo’ and I ran to her and the tears like over flowing buckets fell from her eyes, her mouth fell open and I held her like the last person standing. I have been where she was in that moment.

In that instant everything changed, the whole group that was watching poured out their love, kids ran to her, told her how good she was, adults cheered. The Australian captain said   ‘This girl is amazing, she needs three bowls to practice, let’s go, you ready darling?’ she said ‘Yes’ and she did it, she did three great bowls. Then on the next official bowl she got the boy OUT!’ I nearly had an apoplectic fit. Just because she had broken through something, she did it. She waxed it. In that moment she had made a huge leap.

Then I did a spy job and I watched every woman on the team and looked to see the confidence levels around this cricket match and I was curious to see whether they could show up and perform as equally well as men. It was unnerving, maybe it is my story but the women I watched were wobbly and apologetic, I slightly include myself in that, I was trying to model the good stuff but am not sure how convincing I was. The men seemed to be inately confident, or did they just appear more confident and did they hide their emotions better…and if so what implications does this have for life. Any thoughts?

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About the Author

Lehla is an illustrator and an author of books, she has written for The Guardian. She trained as an actress at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She wrote The South African Illustrated Cookbook, The Lovely Book for Wonderful Women and she illustrated a kid's book by M.J. Amani called 'Excuse Me, I'm Trying to Read' and also 'I am Me, You, Us and We' by Caroline Trowbridge. Above all she is a mother to three fast growing kids, she juggles her time between them and working on new books and projects. She has recently co authored with Anthony 'Jump', Fall, Fly - from schooling, to homeschooling, to unschooling' Her art work can be seen at http://lehlaeldridge.wix.com/lehla-
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