Samantha Hickman came to Peru in January of 2016 and volunteered for 2 years before becoming the Head of National Development in 2018. She has played cricket all her life, beginning in the garden with her dad at the age of 5 and then starting to play competitive cricket from the age of 10. She played state, district and regional level cricket in Australia before starting university and completing a degree majoring in French and Spanish. She then finished her degree and decided to go and travel, volunteering at Cricket Peru.
She came to Peru with the intention of staying for 6 months then continuing to travel South American but destiny had some other plans for her. 4 years later, she finds herself anchoring the Peruvian women’s cricket.
Samantha says, “I am so passionate about cricket and have been so happy to dedicate these years of my life to making a difference in Peru using cricket as a medium for social development. I have been able to see such incredible change over the past years especially in relation to women’s cricket. We want to encourage more and more women to play the sport and open up opportunities for them in the world and I think sport is a powerful way to empower men and women alike and also to foster equal respect between genders.”
In an Exclusive Interview with the Female Cricket team, Samantha tells about how cricket happened, what is Peru Cricket all about and where she sights it in another decade.
1) Which year did Peru women’s cricket begin?
In 2008 we saw the first girl’s cricket game held between British schools, Markham College and San Silvestre (Girls School). This was followed by irregular, inter-school girls games between Markham and Hiram Bingham School, who for some time ran a girl’s cricket development program. Juliet Solomen was voted onto the Cricket Peru Executive Committee as the first female Women’s Cricket Officer at the 2010 AGM in September, entrusted with developing female involvement in cricket throughout Peru.
Cricket Peru was extremely proud to be able to send a national women’s team to the Championship in Brasilia in August 2011. Whilst ‘The Vicuñas’, as they came to be known, did not win any of their three games, their performance on and off the field was commendable, and they returned to Peru with heads held high and a heightened level of enthusiasm for the game and have since played in all the following WSAC, with their last one being played in Colombia, 2018.
In 2016 a new female development officer was appointed, Samantha Hickman, who would go on to become the head of National Development for Cricket Peru and help boost Peruvian female participation in the sport.
The national team is LAS VICUÑAS. The national team competes in the Women’s South American Cricket Championships every year against Chile, Argentina and Brazil and now Mexico. This year the tournament will be held in Lima and in a historic first, the Vicuñas will be playing an ICC Official Peruvian team in the championship. In the past, many Peruvian girls were not able to afford the trip over to the championships in Brazil and Argentina to represent their country, and as Cricket Peru is a non-profit organization it couldn’t afford to pay for all the flights.
2) What is the selection procedure currently to become a part of the Peru National Cricket team?
The truth is our female development is spread across many age groups which makes it difficult to have a consistent team and selection process. It is very different to other countries where there are more consistent age groups, we have to combine girls who are 12 with girls who are 21 and work with the challenges that come from that. To become a part of the Peruvian National team you evidently have to express interest and then from there, we have selection trials. From there the group gets cut down taking into account things like attendance, performance, and development in the team dynamic. We have a selection committee which helps to choose an unbiased team to represent the country.
3) How many women’s teams are there in Peru currently? How popular is school/college cricket in Peru?
There is one Peruvian woman’s team but we have a large group of women playing. The Peruvian women’s team is called THE VICUNAS, but we also have a larger female cricket community that we call the CRICKET PARA MUJERES (cricket for women), to try and create an empowering environment for young women so that the younger girls can grow have strong Peruvian female mentors to learn from. We find in public schools cricket is more popular. There is a distinct hierarchical class system in Latin America that divides the kids, especially in relation to public and private schools. We find in public schools we have a lot more interest and a better attitude toward learning something new. They do not take it for granted and make the most of any opportunity to learn something new.
4) How is the composition of the team in terms of batting, bowling, and fielding?
The reality is that this Peruvian women’s team is different than all the teams from the past few years because it is 100% Peruvian and all their games will be ICC Official whereas in the past years it has been more who could afford to go that would dictate the team but this year the South American Championship is in Lima so most of these girls are playing for the first time in a championship.
I would say the general strength of the team is bowling, and they are getting a lot more confident with the hardball which is positive but there is a still a way to go, their batting is getting a lot better, but they have not had as much game practice so they struggle with the pressure in the game situations but they are getting better each time and that kind of thing will only get better with more matches, but I am confident that this tournament will be a really positive step forward and help give them more confidence and expose them to inspiring women cricketers from all over South America.
5) Any inspiration that the girls in Peru cricket follow? What brings them together to play cricket in a football-freak country?
Trying to encourage females to play a new sport that is traditionally male in a macho country is a challenge that requires patience in its undertaking. I have found in my experience that team sport for women in Latin American is not as common as girl’s reach adolescence. Also, there are not many options other than football or volleyball, the latter generally being the suggested option for females.
I think we have been able to gain interest because we have offered another option that goes outside the traditional norms in this society and we have been able to create a team environment that many of the girls haven’t experienced before. Many young Peruvian girls and women have been attracted to Cricket Peru’s free initiatives all over Lima, so as a result, in July of 2018 a program was launched to help unify the female participation in Peru and to create an environment to help it prosper even more.
This program is called CRICKET PARA MUJERES/CRICKET FOR WOMEN, which has helped Cricket Peru to begin the important process of creating a women’s cricket pathway for Peruvian females of all ages while also creating a strong base to choose from for the national team. We have really strived to build an empowering female group that supports each other which I think has been one of the things that have kept the girls around in this football-crazy country.
6) Do you think cricket in Peru is ready to be taken up as a full-fledged profession? If no, what do you think will make cricket a full-time profession in Peru?
At this point, my answer would be no. We don’t have enough financial support to reach far enough at this point. We have a good base but really the base would need to grow to be able to have a competitive pathway and the girls need more experience and Cricket Peru needs to have a better infrastructure and cricket pathway which with the limited funding we receive is difficult.
There is a lot of potential, but the junior and senior pathway needs to be refined to help give the girls opportunities to advance their skills and talent. We are doing our best but it is a slow process. The truth is girls don’t play enough cricket to be able to do it professionally and need a lot more experience to be able to make it a full-time profession at this point.
7) In which department do you think the team can be really competitive against the world’s best?
I would say at this point their spirit is what makes them special and is what will help them compete and learn the most they can from the championship. For many of them, this will be their first-ever tournament so this experience will help them grow. There is a lot of potentials that need to be explored to be able to make them competitive against the world’s best.
8) Since how many years have you been working with Peru Cricket and what kind of difference do you see since your journey and today?
I have been working at Cricket Peru since January of 2016, so nearly 4 years now. It is very easy to start programs, and that is what we did, we started as many programs as we could with the limited resources we had, but I think the real difference I have been able to see, and the real difference that I have tried to enforce is the cultivation of passion for the sport in Peru, because with passion will come sustainability. We have seen a lot of people introduced to cricket in the past 4 years, but really the most heartwarming difference I have been witness to is the passion in the young kids and adults for cricket in a country that is not traditionally cricket-mad. They have been able to build their own cricket culture-specific to them.
9) What is it that is holding back the team from coming up at the international level under the ICC?
We don’t have enough experience in the competition, neither do the girls have good enough facilities to practice on. They just have to play more cricket!
10) Not many people see cricket in Peru as a profession. What changes do you think can revolutionize cricket in Peru?
It is a hard one, because I don’t like naming money as a solution to everything, but once we start to get support from the government and from other sporting bodies then we may be able to start getting the girls to focus more of their time to it as they will have hope and they will be able to see their dreams of playing for their country and traveling to play cricket are actually possible. Government support would be incredibly helpful as well as having access to more cricket grounds to play more matches. We can only rely on volunteers and the goodwill of others for so long, we are doing our best to create the pathway but we need the teachers and facilities to be able to facilitate the growth we envision as well.
12) How would you describe the team’s atmosphere and attitude?
The girls are very close and are very bonded through their cricket experience together. They are all learning and growing together and the way they support each other and help each other identify their strengths and weaknesses is really beautiful to watch. They may have a way to go with their experience but they are very positive and want to learn.
13) What are the facilities that the Peru Cricket association provides to the team? What does it lack?
We hardly have any funds for facilities, we go down to public parks or stadiums (which are very few), or we sometimes train at schools with synthetic grass. It is not really up to the grade that a national women’s team should be playing, but we are doing the best that we can. We would love to be able to train on more cricket pitches, but the access to cricket pitches over here is very difficult as one is in a private club, and the other one is quite far away so it makes it quite difficult. There is no training facility that the girls truly call their own, unfortunately.
14) What are some of the struggles that the team and players have gone through their journey?
It has been difficult to get all the girls together at the same time because of the distance between where they all live. They have to travel a way to get to training. The lack of facilities makes it hard for the girls to visualize themselves in a professional manner and that is what makes it so hard for me, as I want to be able to provide them with the same grounds and ovals that I grew up playing on. All I want is for the girls to be able to grow their love of cricket and show them that the world is their oyster if they stick with this. Women’s cricket is growing and I want them to be able to visualize themselves on the world stage.
15) Give names of the complete Peru women’s Cricket squad.
Milka Esteban Linares