The SCC Divas team comprise 26 players, many of whom were brought up on baseball, and play in the local development league
Josie Arimas was brought up with baseball and softball in her blood. Having learned the game from her father at 11, she thrived at junior and high-school levels. She wanted to pursue sports at university level but knew her parents could not afford the fees. So with absolute faith in her sporting abilities, she tried out for a softball scholarship at the University of Negros Occidental Recoletos in her native Philippines – and was accepted.
She continued to play baseball after arriving in Hong Kong as a domestic helper in 2005. And it was because of her skills around the diamond that she was asked to join the Hong Kong Cricket Club’s women’s cricket team in 2015.
Arimas, 49, then set out on a mission to promote cricket among Hong Kong’s large community of Filipino domestic helpers – and the result is the 26-strong SCC Divas all-Filipino cricket team who are vying for inclusion in the domestic women’s elite league.
Arimas recruited most of the cricketers from her baseball and softball circles who were eager to try out cricket. They continue to play all these sports.
“One afternoon in Hong Kong, I met two umpires and we chatted about cricket. They showed me cricket on TV and then I watched some actual games at Mission Road, which is right next to the softball ground,” said Arimas, who played for HKCC Willow Wielders for three years before forming Divas.
“At first I didn’t really understand what was going on but watching it on TV helped me understand the game.
“Initially, I recruited players from the baseball team that I play for. Some of them used to play volley ball as well. We are all very keen on sports and even though the baseball and cricket season happen at the same time, we are lucky to be able to play baseball maybe once a month.
“The players liked the opportunity to play sport on Sunday, the cricket ball and baseball are similar and we are all naturally keen to learn something new.
“We are also very active on Facebook and word got around so we were able to attract some more players. We now have a squad of 26.”
Coached by former Hong Kong women’s coach Najeeb Amar, the Divas team are playing in Cricket Hong Kong’s development league and are hoping to one day gain promotion to the elite women’s division.
Divas are the women’s wing of the SubCont Cricket Club formed in 1998 and who play in the men’s Saturday League as the SCC Lancers. They were Saturday League champions in 2005.
Mostly of the Divas team can only train and play on Sundays because they work as domestic helpers the rest of the week. They use the India Club near Jordan and Hong Kong Cricket Club as training venues with many of them playing baseball and cricket on the same day.
Despite the limited training opportunities, Arimas said they were ambitious and are aiming to become the best women’s cricket team in Hong Kong.
“There is a lot of potential in our team,” she said. “We now belong to the development league and we hope to one day join the women’s league. The players only need to train more often. We are hoping that with the help of our managers and coaches that after two or three years we will become champions of Hong Kong.”
Zenny Badajos, 30, is another one of the Divas players who has successfully jumped a grade to play for the HKCC Willow Wielders women’s team.
She studied physical education at the University of Philippines Diliman on a scholarship and, like many of her Divas teammates, started off with softball.
“I’m starting to learn cricket here in Hong Kong,” said Badajos, who picked up the sport in May. “Josie asked me to try out for the Willow Wielders and because of my throwing ability they accepted me in their team.”
The Divas team manager is Animesh Kulkarni, who formed SCC and is looking to expand the club’s women’s division. When asked if they truly expect to become Hong Kong champions within the next few years, he said: “Yes, that is the aim.”
Kulkarni added: “Josie is the one who provided the initiative for this team. We have given them the best possible coaching and our current coach is the ex-women’s national coach.
“We are now in the development league and I expect us to become development league champions next year. And our ambition is to become Hong Kong champions.”
Kulkarni said that the Divas concept is not restricted to domestic helpers.
“We have never categorised the team,” he said. “It’s a platform to provide more opportunities for women to play cricket and any women who wants to play for us are welcome.”