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Brazil has its first bat factory and it is experiencing a women’s cricket boom

In a cemented yard of a humble community in Poços de Caldas, Minas Gerais, a group of children run at full speed after a different ball. But the ubiquitous game of football as well as the national game is cricket. The mining town of 170,000 inhabitants also became the capital of the game made in the Queen’s country.

Contrary to all predictions, Brazil has become an emerging cricketing power, especially for its national team, which signed the agreement in 2020, becoming the first country to professionalize women before men.

Most of its players have learned to play in one of 63 youth programs run by the Cricket Brazil organization, chaired by former professional player Matt Featherstone, an Englishman who married a Brazilian who came to the country 20 years ago. “My wife thinks I’m crazy” to teach Brazilians cricket, comedian Featherstone, 51, is still an athlete with a contagious enthusiasm.

His charisma has transformed Poços de Caldas, a coffee town, which Mayor Sergio Azevedo is proud to call “the only city in Brazil where young people play more cricket than football.”

In samba rhythm

Featherstone initially tried to express his love for cricket in a private school, but there he competed in rugby, hockey, sailing and “whatever you can imagine”. In poor neighborhoods, by contrast, where the alternative is “football or soccer”, he discovers families willing to welcome new sports. Unlike England, where cricket is usually a high-society men’s game, “there’s a blank slate for us to do whatever we want,” he said.

Women’s team captain Roberta Moretti remembers the moment of the discovery of cricket on Avery TV. “I didn’t understand the rules, I just saw that there were a lot of people wearing white, and it lasted a long time,” recalls Avery, 36. But at the same time, it reminds him of a Brazilian street game known as “bat” or “taco”, made in Mexico and widespread in Latin America. The history of the Brazilian game states that the game was invented by Brazilian slaves with broom sticks and bottles, and the British came to Brazil in the 19th century to build a railway to play cricket.

Cricket Brazil’s enthusiasm and openness ultimately convinces Avery. “The way it was applied here for the Brazilians was great, it was a very fun way,” said Avery. During practice, the Brazilian team likes to play funk and samba before the match and have tea with cucumber sandwiches in the evening.

Wide horizons

Thanks to projects launched in 2009, Poços de Caldas has more than 5,000 players. Cricket Brazil wants to reach 30,000 other cities. Some players have achieved international fame, such as Laura Cardoso, who, at just 16 years old, lost five opponents in the last six launches against Canada during World Cup qualifiers. The T20 women’s international tournament has never achieved such a feat.

New from the professional experience in Dubai, Cardoso could become one of the best in the world, Featherstone said. But the young prodigy, now 17, takes it easy. “What have I done to qualify to stay here?”, He said with a smile, near the team’s training center, a grant from the municipal government.

The Brazilian women’s team, currently 28th in the T20 International rankings, wants more after four wins in the last five South American Championships where only a few countries participate. Successfully, the money came from the International Cricket Council and sponsors.

Cricket Brazil’s annual budget has increased from about $ 5,000 a decade ago to $ 350,000, allowing the company to launch a coaching program and send young people to university. The lives of some players, such as 20-year-old Lindsay Mariano, have changed. “Before the game, I didn’t have a passport,” he said, taking a break from training for the Brazil team’s next tour of Africa, but now “I’ve traveled a lot for cricket.”

TACO factory

In a workshop overlooking the mountains of southeastern Brazil, self-taught carpenter Luiz Roberto Francisco carved a piece of pine into a rare Brazilian object: a cricket bat. Francisco, 63, the proud owner of Brazil’s first cricket bat factory, is located in Pocos de Caldas, a small town in Minas Gerais.

Not coincidentally, the city is home to Cricket Brazil, an organization led by former English professional cricketer Matt Featherstone, which has set an ambitious goal of getting 30,000 Brazilians to play the game of their choice over the next three years. Currently, 5,000 people are trained mainly in the organization’s youth program, which is also the birthplace of the women’s team.

However, with the advent of the epidemic all plans were thwarted by those who spread the good news of cricket without an important element of their game: the bat. Then came Francisco, a retired electrician at the local aluminum plant in Alcoa, known in Pocos de Caldas as a skilled hammer and intelligent problem solver. The shepherd followed him. “He (Matt) told me he needed someone to make Taco, and he asked me, ‘Do you accept the challenge?'” Francisco recalls. I replied: ‘I do!’ ‘.

Courage and YouTube

Francis says he has never held a cricket bat in his life, but he used a combination of YouTube tutorials, trials and errors and daring to turn his workshop into the “Royal Bats”, his new company. First, Francisco learned that he needed to apply two tons of pressure on the wood to achieve the right density. “There were no machines in Brazil to do this,” said the carpenter. “So I’ve tried a few different things and created one.”

Francisco wasn’t sure what kind of local wood would work best for making cricket bats. To solve the problem, he started collecting the found scrap and branches.

After months of trying, he and Cricket decided to plant Brazil pine. Francisco can now make a bat in about five hours. Each of them costs about 100 races, about 70 times less than the premium tacos imported from England made from willow. As cricket culture spreads across Brazil, Francisco has expanded its product line. It also makes the game dartboard and folded cricket chair now known as ‘Wicket’.

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