It is possible to play cricket and go to university: Isa Guha’s message for youngsters
Isa Guha is a jack of all trades. She is a former England cricketer winning a total of 113 caps in all three formats, currently a commentator and has also earned a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology (and later a post-graduate qualification in neuroscience). However, she doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as ‘the woman who does the cricket’ but to set an example for young women that she represents something that was not always thought achievable.
“It’s where I feel quite conflicted because I want people to see me for the job that I’m doing rather than my gender or my colour,” Guha was quoted as saying to i. “But I do recognise that if there is a young woman or girl out there from an Asian background who sees me on television hosting, then that might inspire them to go on and do the same. Or it might just make them feel empowered and that there is an opportunity out there for them.”
Guha’s first tryst with the game came in when she got involved with cricket playing with her brother in the back garden. “We know that there are a lot of women out there playing cricket, either in the garden or in the park, but don’t necessarily make that transition into the county and then beyond,” she added.
“It’s partly a values thing, wanting to focus on studies at the age of 15 or 16, more so in the Asian community, but my message to young girls is that it is possible to do both, to play cricket and go to university.”
Guha became the first British Asian woman to play for England when she made her Test debut in 2002 against India. Others have followed ensuring Britain’s massive south Asian community, which comprises around 30 per cent of the playing population, and counts within the country’s success as a whole is a running sore for the ECB.
“There hasn’t necessarily been that engagement,” Guha stated. “I’ve been involved in a number of different projects where they’re kind of dipping their toe into it but not in a significant way. That’s why I was really excited by the South Asian strategy which came into place two years ago and there was a significant drive to engage at all levels, whether that was providing playing facilities, encouraging mentors, or providing full support for female coaches.
“It’s got to be a two-way thing as well. The ECB have shown willingness and investment but it also needs to come from the Asian community who may be in the past have been a bit cynical about an approach from the ECB – but those relationships are being managed really well and now we’re seeing the fruits of that. And for me, it’s a personal passion of mine to see more young Asian women going off to play county and then at the international level,” Guha added.
Meanwhile, Guha will be at the heart when Test cricket returns to BBC TV for the first time in more than 20 years on Wednesday (July 8) night when England take on West Indies. Nothing about the coverage will be normal, with the broadcast team having been dropped into the Ageas Bowl’s ‘bio-bubble’. “I can wake up and smell the grass being cut,” Guha concluded.