A women’s cricket team in Hong Kong is making waves due to its unconventional makeup and rapid success. Read on to learn more about how a squad entirely composed of Filipino helpers, the SCC Divas, burst onto Hong Kong’s cricket scene.
The SCC Divas are a group of Filipino domestic helpers who have risen to cricket stardom in Hong Kong in a relatively short amount of time. Despite many of the members having little to no background in cricket, and almost zero time during the week to train, the Divas have managed to win Hong Kong’s development league twice in their first two seasons, and are unbeaten in five matches since making the jump up to the Second Division this year. Hive Life sat down with team founder and captain, Josie Treyes, players Annie Zamora and Mae Meru, and coach Sher Lama to learn more about how the Divas have battled against all odds to establish themselves as one of the up-and-coming women’s cricket teams in Hong Kong.
Coach Sher Lama considers the Divas to be “experienced”, but the team itself hasn’t been active for very long. As Josie recalls the formation of the team, a journey which began over five years ago, she details how she was first introduced to cricket by meeting British members of the Hong Kong Cricket Club (HKCC), located in Tai Tam. She was urged to try out for the HKCC’s Women Willow Wielders after the members were impressed with her prior experience in softball – a game that isn’t exactly similar in terms of rules, but where catching and handling skills are certainly applicable – and played for the team for two years. After her time with the national team, she decided to form her own team, and found it quite easy to gather the necessary numbers. “I had many friends who were interested in playing cricket,” she recalls. “So we began recruiting players, starting with many of my softball and baseball teammates from before.”
The team began formally training in April 2017, with a large squad of 32. Josie sought the help of Animesh Kulkarni – then a cricket umpire in Hong Kong – to manage the team. Chandrasekhar Parameswaran was hired as the assistant manager, while Sher Lama, a long-time friend of Kulkarni, was recruited as the head coach of the Divas just in time for the start of the current season. “Animesh Kulkarni is a very, very good friend of mine. We played for the same team in Hong Kong, Sai Wan Cricket Club,” he explains. Coach Lama’s qualifications are clear: as a Level 3 cricket coach (the second highest attainable level), he’s spent over 13 years coaching Hong Kong’s national youth teams – including the boys’ U-16, U-17, and U-19 teams – as well as the women’s national team after hanging up his playing boots back in 2007. “Animesh asked me to join the Divas to take these girls forward, and I joined the team because I trusted him,” he declares.
Fast forward to 2020, and the SCC (which stands for Subcont) Divas are now well established as one of the most rapidly improving women’s cricket teams in Hong Kong. The team even has its own development squad, SCC Pinay, which is open to anyone who wants to come and join. “We use the team to see how good new players are. If they do well there, then they can be promoted to play for the Divas,” Coach Lama details.
The team plays most of its games at Po Kong Village Cricket Ground in Diamond Hill. Owing to their limited schedules, the Divas normally only have one day a week – their Sunday day off – to either train or play matches. “We do most of our training at the India Club or Po Kong Village Cricket Ground, but when we don’t have a match that week, we normally train at the India Club,” Coach Lama states. The team is sponsored by Gencor Pacific Group, a leading healthcare group, who provides the team with financial support and uniforms.
Many players on the team were recruited by Josie due to their prior experience with baseball and softball, but Annie Zamora and Mae Meru joined the Divas through a different avenue: Facebook. “Back in 2018, I was browsing Facebook looking for sports activities to join when I came across the SCC Divas Facebook page. I messaged the page and Josie replied giving me a short briefing on how cricket works and its similarities with baseball and softball,” Annie recalls. Josie ended up asking her to visit the field to properly gauge her interest. She remembers being immediately intrigued by the game, and joined the team in the middle of the 2018 season.
On that same note, Mae was introduced to the Divas through a friend, who shared an article on the team with her. “I’ve always been a sporty person. Before joining the Divas, I was playing volleyball, but I wanted to try something else,” she explains. She’d been looking for a baseball or softball team in Hong Kong for a while, but once again, Josie was able to convince her to give the game a go, and she ended up joining the team before the end of the first season, back in early 2017. “Sometimes we even ask our neighbours to come and observe our training sessions, and if they like what they see, they can join,” Mae remarks. Indeed, many new recruits already know someone on the team before joining, due to being introduced by a mutual friend or neighbour, allowing them to gel easily with the rest of the squad.
Cricket is played between two teams of eleven players on a pitch with two wickets at each end. The batting side scores runs by striking the ball bowled at the wicket with a bat and running between the wickets, while the bowling and fielding side defends by preventing the ball from leaving the field, getting the ball to either wicket to get batters “out”, or catching a batted ball before it hits the ground. The batting and fielding aspects of the sport appeal to former softball players who have the inherent fundamentals to succeed. “New players often ask if we use gloves to catch the ball, but no, we only use our bare hands. That’s why you need good technique when catching the ball, because otherwise you will get injured,” Annie says.
Josie notes that she chose to form a cricket team because of how unique the game was – although it shares characteristics with baseball, the rules are quite different. Coach Lama asserts that cricket isn’t exactly popular in basketball-crazed Philippines; the tropical nation is also home to boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, meaning many young Filipinos have no idea how the game of cricket is played.
As a British colonial remnant, however, cricket is rather popular in Hong Kong. “In women’s cricket, there are a lot of ladders to climb, and the top divisions are really competitive,” Coach Lama asserts. “It’s a good pathway for the women’s team to play in the league system, and if they do well, they will get the opportunity to play at the higher levels such as the Premier League and hopefully they can then make it to the Hong Kong team.” In fact, some of the Divas are showing so much promise that they’ve been asked to participate in international cricket, but the timing is difficult for the players, many of whom get a very limited number of holidays. Josie explains that she had to speak with the Philippines Cricket Association about playing international cricket during the 14 days of holiday that helpers are entitled to every two years. The Divas spent last Christmas playing an official International Cricket Council (ICC) match against Indonesia in Manila, and incredibly, 9 players from the Divas were chosen for the Philippines national women’s team.
A short-term goal for the Divas is to win Division Two this season and move up to Division One, Josie states. The Divas are certainly well on track to do so, but a longer-term, more ambitious goal has already been accomplished, with the Philippines Women’s National Team set to make history by becoming the first Philippine women’s team to enter an official ICC event. Hoping to build off their 2019 debut against Indonesia, the Blue Caps – a team moniker based off of their blue uniforms – will be participating in the September 2021 Samoa Tour.
“Maybe five years from now, younger generations in the Philippines will know more about cricket, and schools will play cricket too,” Annie remarks. “When we go home, we’ll be able to bring the spirit of playing cricket back with us too.” Coach Lama explains that once the girls are finished with their jobs in Hong Kong, they’ll be able to return to the Philippines with their newfound skills and hopefully spread the game to future generations. But Mae isn’t looking too far into the future just yet. “For me, I’m just looking forward to being with the team, because we haven’t just built a team, we’ve built a family,” she concludes.
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The Divas managed to win Hong Kong’s development league twice in their first two seasons, and were promoted to the Second Division this year. They are currently sitting comfortably on top of the Second Division table – with a sterling record of five wins from five games. What makes their accomplishments even more impressive is when one considers the fact that they only get one day a week to train – meaning that on match days, they don’t even get to practice. “To be perfect in any industry, you need to practice a lot, and you need to practice hard – you have to give time to the game. Unfortunately, most of the girls are working in their homes throughout the week, so they don’t have a lot of time,” Coach Lama laments.
The players laughed in unison when asked the question that’s surely on everyone’s minds: How are the Divas so good? Softball experience aside, Mae believes it’s the team’s determination that sets the Divas apart from other women’s cricket teams in Hong Kong – and knowing that other teams have plenty of time to train only fuels their motivation to work as hard as possible on Sundays. “From Monday to Saturday, all we’re doing is working, and so we know that if we don’t give our best on Sundays, we’re really going for nothing,” she emphatically states. “That’s why we always give our best to win a match or defend a title.”
Coach Lama backs Mae’s claim, and it’s clear that he’s also incredibly proud of how diligent the Divas are, whether it’s during practice or on match days. “We’re winning all our games and we’re on top of the table, but all credit goes to these girls,” he acknowledges. “They only get to come out once a week, but as a coach, I feel that they always give 100% when they step on the field because they don’t want to waste their Sundays.” The Divas play to win – winning is everything because it means going home to their arduous jobs happy. They come to the field with a belief that they can beat anyone, and considering how many obstacles they’ve faced and overcome, it’d be hard for anyone to bet against them.