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Treasure Island: The rise of Vanuatu women in the cricketing world

As the Island nation make their mark in the ongoing T20 WC qualifiers, a look at the journey of the players and how far they have come.

Vanuatu Womens cricket teamVanuatu: Melissa Fare did not have it in her to stay up and watch the entire match as her Vanuatu teammates defeated Zimbabwe at the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Having represented Vanuatu in 13 T20Is, Fare, who is currently studying in Adelaide, was on cloud nine when she woke up in Adelaide to the news of her side beating the full-member nation on their global qualifiers debut.

“I woke up this morning, sat on my bed, and cried a little bit. I would have been a mess if I was watching it live,” she told this daily. “I couldn’t stop smiling. I was telling everyone about it today. I can imagine the emotions that were going on there with the team,” she adds.

Women’s cricket started on the island in 2012 and the team, which is mostly made up of players who are seasonal workers in Australia, has made it to the global WC qualifiers in itself is the biggest achievement for them.

“What people fail to realise is that the Vanuatu women’s team is very young. 2012 is not too long ago. It’s just only 12 years of the team being together. It was important for the women in Vanuatu because they didn’t get a lot of opportunities to play. None of them gets paid to play cricket. They do training in their own free time. They’re not making lucrative careers out of it. So it’s just purely for the love and passion of the sport. To see that passion getting rewarded means so much.”

Fare remembers what the situation was over the years, where like every amateur team, Vanuatu spent most of the time training rather than actually playing the game. For many such teams, the time between two games could be weeks or months. Vanuatu women used to wait for two years, just to participate in one regional tournament. “We used to play cricket once every two years at the East Asia and Pacific tournaments. Between those two years, it will be just training. Training every day of the week, just to play in a 10-day tournament. They have done it consistently,” she added.

This situation changed in the East Asia and Pacific regional qualifiers, where hosts Vanuatu won all six matches, including the one against Papua New Guinea, one of the strongest teams in the region. Vanuatu were not the runaway favourites to win the regional qualifiers, but their undefeated run made sure they were knocking on another opportunity, this time at the global level. “It took some time for the girls to realize what was happening when we won the EAP qualifier to make it to the global qualifier,” Fare remembers it vividly as one of the broadcasters for the regional tournament.

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