“You will see Brazilians in WBBL, Hundred and Women’s IPL soon” : Roberta Moretti Avery

She created history when she became the first Brazilian, across men and women, to score a century in a T20I match. Since then, she has been an integral part of Brazilian cricket. She was also a part of the Brazilian team that played their first-ever T20I. She took over the captainship in 2019 and has been very successful.

In an exclusive chat with Female Cricket, Brazil women’s cricket team captain Roberta Avery talks about her childhood, journey to becoming a cricketer and more.

 

Female Cricket interviews Roberta Moretti Avery
Female Cricket interviews Roberta Moretti Avery

 

Excerpts

Cricket was not the first sport that you took up. It was golf and handball. Tell us more about this and of course your childhood.

Since my childhood, I was always into sports. My parents always encouraged me to play and gave me the freedom to play any sport of my choice. I have a younger brother, with whom I played a lot of games. We also had a golf course nearby, so over the weekends I used to go there and play golf. My parents were golf players too, so picking up golf was very natural. I also represented my state in golf. I trained for two to three hours daily. I used to travel by bus and then walk a mile to reach the gold course. Apart from golf, I played a lot of handball for my school. Unlike girls of my age, I was not afraid of the ball. So I ended up becoming the goal-keeper in my handball team. I am glad that while growing up I played one team sport and one individual sport at the elite level.

It was only at the age of 27 you started playing cricket, thanks to your husband. Tell us more about this.

It was a sheer coincidence you can say that I started playing cricket. I met Richard, an English man and we moved to Brazil. He was new to Brazil and was finding ways to settle here. During that time, the President of Cricket Brazil was Matthew Featherstone, who was also an English man, he was from my hometown. We met Matt and in Richard, Matt found a cricket coach and in Matt, Richard found his home. Richard started cricket coaching in 2012. Around the same time, there was a softball tournament organized in Brazil, during which there was a plan to form a national women’s cricket team. I went there and got picked for the team. Honestly, till then I didn’t have any intentions of playing professional cricket. But today I am glad that I took up the sport and I am enjoying it to the fullest.

 

Brazil Captain Roberta Moretti Avery with Suzie Bates and Charlotte Edwards. PC: MorettiAvery/Twitter
Brazil Captain Roberta Moretti Avery with Suzie Bates and Charlotte Edwards. PC: MorettiAvery/Twitter

 

In 2014, you created history, as you became the first Brazilian to score a century in a T20 match.

It is actually a very funny story. We were playing against Peru in Chile. We did not have the best batting line-up. So our captain asked me to open the batting since there were no takers for that position. I opened the batting on a grass wicket, a wicket on which I had never played. Apart from the wicket being alien, the weather conditions were not too conducive. It was very cold as the temperature was just five degrees Celsius. I played well and at the end of the innings remained unbeaten. I went up to the scorer and asked him about the number of runs I had scored. He counted them manually and told me that I had registered 102 runs. Till then, nobody knew I had scored a century. But once my teammates came to know they started congratulating me and we celebrated in our dressing room. The next day I scored 76 and that time I raised my bat after completing the half-century.

Roberta Avery with 'Best Bowler' of the Tournament Award. PC: usacricket.org
Roberta Avery with ‘Best Bowler’ of the Tournament Award. PC: usacricket.org

 

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Brazil received international status from the ICC in 2017 and the team played their first-ever T20I against Mexico on August 23, 2018.

Yes, it was a very big thing for us to receive an international status from the ICC. We felt very happy. After playing the South American Championship for quite some time and winning the tournament on a consistent basis, we were rewarded with international status. Before that, we didn’t know where the future of Brazilian cricket was going. Once we were under the ICC umbrella it was a great feeling for us. We played our first T20I against Mexico on August 23, 2018 in Colombia and went on to win that match. That has surely been the turning point for Brazil women’s cricket.

To date you have captained Brazil in 11 T20Is and won nine out of them. What is the secret to your success as a captain?

I have captained Brazil in all of the games that we have played so far. Honestly, I don’t think I was born to be a good captain. I was born to be an athlete for sure. But when I took over the captainship, I wanted to lead by example.

I would not ask any player to do something that I could not do. This is how I built trust and strong relationships with all the players. Also playing other sports like golf and handball, before cricket, helped me develop confidence.

 

Brazil Women's Cricket Team Celebrating a Wicket. PC: MorettiAvery / Twitter
Brazil Women’s Cricket Team Celebrating a Wicket. PC: MorettiAvery / Twitter

 

Your teammates fondly call you Big Mom. What is the story behind this nickname?

(Smiles) You won’t believe it, I have even received a trophy which has “Big Mom” written on it. When I started out playing and captaining the side, there were a couple of girls, who were just 14 years old. They were almost half my age, so I was like their mother, taking care of them and supporting them. Also apart from playing cricket, I have been coaching kids, which may have encouraged the players to call me “Big Mom”. However, things are changing now. I am slowly shifting from the “Big Mom” to “Big Sister”.

Speaking about moms, you have been actively associated with the MAD (Mothers and Daughters) campaign. Can you throw some light on this?

Yes, of course. It is a great campaign. We started this with the ICC’s support. The aim of this campaign is to get more and more girls involved in cricket and make them love the sport. We started this at the school level and over the years we garnered a lot of popularity. There was this one school, which had as many as 120 girls playing cricket. Today, we have three girls from the MAD campaign on the contracted list of players. I feel that if the girls are given the opportunity to play cricket, they will certainly grab it with both hands and make the most of it. give them the opportunity and they will make the most of it.

In 2020, you took to social media and discussed mental health. According to you, how important is the mental well-being of an athlete?

Mental health is one of the most important aspects not only for any sportsperson but also for any individual. 2020 was not a great year for all of us as we were restricted to our homes and could not do much. This was the time when we heard of many athletes taking a break from their sport citing mental health reasons.

I feel that if you are happy with what you are doing, then you will be able to maintain good mental health. For instance, during the lockdown, I spent a lot of time with my family and my dogs. I also practiced batting in my garage with my husband. It is essential that you find happiness in small things.

You were one of the 40 people to be selected for the ICC 100% Future Leadership Programme in 2021. Tell us more about this programme.

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It is a wonderful initiative taken by the ICC. My mentor was Sharda Ugra, a senior journalist from India, who is associated with ESPN Cricinfo. The fact that we have similar energies helped me. I always wonder about my future after playing cricket. I would want to continue influencing the girls to take up the sport, so I decided to apply for this ICC programme. I am glad that I was selected for this. Through this programme, I got the chance to interact with some amazing people around the world and understand the kind of work they are doing to promote women’s cricket. In the future, I would like to transition from a manager to a leader.

This year you will be featuring in the Fairbreak Global Invitation tournament in Hong Kong. How excited are you?

I am very excited to play in this tournament, where I will get a chance to play alongside Harmanpreet Kaur, Deepti Sharma, Sophie Devine, Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, and other international stars.

The ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup is just around the corner. Who are you supporting this time?

That’s a tough one. The top four teams, namely, Australia, England, India, and New Zealand have a good chance, of course South Africa coming out strong in the recent past.

What does the future of Brazil women’s cricket look like?

We have a well-structured pathway to make women’s cricket grow and develop in a big way. Apart from the contracted players, we have school teams, club teams as well as A team in place. There is an increasing number of girls taking up the sport and it is really good to see this. We should be able to break into the top 20 T20I teams in the next four to five years. Also, in the next World Cup qualifiers, we want to put up a competitive show. I feel it is not too far that you will see a Brazilian playing in the WBBL, the Hundred and the women’s IPL.

I am a former cricketer having represented Mumbai University at All India University level. I was a part of MCA probables for the U-19 and U-23 age group. I have been an avid cricket writer for the last five years. Currently I am pursuing my Ph.D from IIT Bombay.

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