Blog: A Bat and A Ball, Across Thousands of Miles

By Zoya Zia, Senior Impact and Evaluation Officer at Chance to Shine.

I can’t pinpoint the moment I first watched cricket—it’s a part of me, a link to the place I come from, far in distance but never far in heart. I spent my early years in the hustle and bustle of Karachi, where the sport is a fact of daily life, a source of unity, entertainment, even belonging. From running up to bowl in the streets to angling the perfect hit in the stadium, the rhythms of bat and ball echo boldly across the city, spread by the cheers of those playing and spectating. I have rediscovered the power of cricket through my work now, many years and many miles away from where I started to witness it. 

Leaving behind the seaside breeze of Karachi and moving to Texas at a young age, I lost touch not only with cricket but also my roots in Pakistan. I got caught up in the community of baseball, basketball and American football, playing at school and watching games with my family. As one of two Pakistani families in a small town, there wasn’t much opportunity to play cricket, nor did we have the technology to follow matches abroad. Despite this gap, I built a profound love for sport, admiring its ability to bring people together and bring out their best, through examples of resilience and comradery.  

When I returned to Karachi to visit relatives in the summer of 2009, I found myself struggling to recognise it. My Urdu felt weak, and I stuck out like the Texan I had become. Despite all that had changed, cricket remained a bridge to home. Glued to their television screens, millions including myself cheered on the ‘Men in Green’ as they hoisted up the ICC World Twenty20 Trophy. Brilliant firework displays decorated the sky all night. Just a few days later, waiting to board the flight to the States, it dawned on me that as uncertain and sad as it felt to leave again, I uncovered a way to stay connected. We bought a cricket kit and jerseys to boot—my last name stickered onto the back one.  

Since then, I have never felt too distant from cricket. It has provided a beloved link to my family in Pakistan. Though I don’t see them often, whenever I would practice bowling and batting with my brother, I remembered my younger cousins in Karachi, playing the game any spare moment. During international tournaments, I began to join in the collective excitement. In Ramadan 2017, awake for my pre-dawn meal in Mexico City, I fondly watched the Pakistan men’s team compete and ultimately raise the ICC Champions Trophy with the utmost cohesion and dedication.  

These days, I resonate with my South Asian heritage not just in high-profile victories but in the day-to-day wins of watching young people play cricket. It brings me great joy and reminds me of home every time I speak to a teacher marvelling at the transformative potential of the sport, or I visit a Street club and see bright smiles, handshakes, affirmations of support no matter what the outcome. Across thousands of miles, a bat and a ball and the determination to have fun, to connect with other people, is always worth celebrating. 

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