We recently caught up with the Captain of Cricket Brazil, Roberta Avery, detailing the importance of role models, the cricket structure within Cricket Brazil, and her goals for the World Cup Qualifiers.
How did you get into Cricket?
I lived in England for 7 years between 2003-2010. I played every type of sport I could. I played competitive golf until 2018. When I came to England I saw cricket on TV everywhere. I never understood the rules and didn’t have any friends that played it either which made it difficult to understand the rules.
When I came back to Brazil in 2010, I got married to an Englishman who came back with me. We became friends with Matt Featherstone who was the development officer of Cricket Brazil at the time. He was starting a project in my hometown, to teach cricket to kids. He invited my husband to be a coach, as they were both English and understood the sport.
I used to work with my husband, and initially had said that cricket wasn’t for me as I was extremely busy. 2 months later, I was playing softball cricket. I have loved it and been involved with it ever since.
How impactful do you think role models are in cricket?
I found in my studies that one of the main reasons that teenagers stop playing sport is because there is a lack of role models. You cannot be what you cannot see. If they do not see older women playing, they then don’t know they can do that.
Role models should show them that they can play for fun, or competitively. But we need to be able to give them that pathway regardless of which route they choose.
You have to start with the fun side, regardless of the age that you are starting. Once you find the fun side, there are so many opportunities that can open up from that.
Can you tell us a bit about being selected for the ICC Development Programme?
Yes, it was the best news I’ve received. It was something I was so excited about. I rang my boss (president of Cricket Brazil) and they supported me so much with the application. It is so great to be around passionate women who are fighting to be leaders of their country.
I feel very grateful to be involved in the social media and cricket in which they have given me a window to talk to these women who are great at what they do and are leaders in their areas. I feel very grateful for that.
Have you had any sessions with the programme?
I start sessions with Belinda Clark. I cannot believe I get to train with huge names like her. We have stimulus sessions in which we read material and discuss. It is great to network and study at the same time.
The way that it works is that you have two group sessions with Belinda. Then there is monthly 1-1 mentoring.
What’s the structure like at Cricket Brazil?
In 2013, we used to train in a closed gymnasium. We had two lanes, no separation. We were so new to cricket that no-one would get hurt, even thought there was no equipment.
Now, we have cricket grounds all around the country. We have a high performance training centre with loads of facilities, and we received a huge donation from the Lords Taverners to allow us to train with all the equipment we need.
In terms of the coaching teams and staff, we now have the Brazilian team, head coach, team manager - all the types of coaches. We are so grateful because we never thought it would be possible.
You were the first country to have female contracts before the male players, how do you feel?
It really caught me by surprise. We were coming back from the South African Championship. Matt said to me that the board were thinking of giving out contracts. I thought it would be something really small, we were thinking about where could we go next. We won 4/5 of the last championships.
It shows that regardless of the gender, we are still given opportunities.
How does it feel to be the only player to have scored a T20I century?
It was the second tournament I had played in for Brazil. We had not had an opening partnership. The person who went first was the person who didn’t care about getting out.
The first game of the tournament I got a call asking if I wanted to open. It was 5 degrees, so of course I wanted to be playing. I was just going about my business enjoying myself when all of a sudden they shouted 50 from the boundary. I didn’t really know what to do, I didn’t know you had to raise your bat. I just said thank you and carried on.
But no-one knew that I scored a hundred, because I got it in the last over. I went over to the scorers and he told me I got 102. I said thank you and left without realising how great it really was.
All of a sudden people kept bringing me all these things and MVP ceremonies - I really didn’t know scoring a century was that big. We didn’t have role models or history to help teach us. And I never watched cricket on tv, I didn’t really know much about the sport to be honest.
I guess because there was no pressure of anyone congratulation you or celebrating, simply because I didn’t know how much of an achievement it was, it was much simpler to play. Now that I know it’s such a big thing, I haven’t come close because of the pressure.
How important is it to have family support?
I grew up playing golf with my family and always had them around me. My mum really inspired me, she was my role model.
In cricket it is no different, my husband understands everything that I am doing. As an adult player, he is helping me run the business, run the household, so that I can make cricket my priority. I wouldn’t be able to focus on cricket so much without family.
My family support me. It took them a little bit of time to understand the route I’ve taken of being a 36-year-old athlete.
For younger kids it is vital. Sometimes the future does not allow you to do things that are different from the norm. If you do not have your family support to tell you that you can do it, it gets much tougher. It is so important as an athlete in any sport to have support.
How easy is it for young girls to join the sport?
I think we’re lucky because for us Cricket didn’t start as a male-dominated sport. We started cricket as a blank canvas, starting with social programmes etc. It has always been 50% for each gender. Girls know they can play cricket because it is not a male-dominated sport in Brazil.
We’re leading the movement of improvement.