Veronica Vasquez is the captain of the Argentina Women’s cricket team. An anesthesiologist by the day, she is also leading on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. A right-handed batter, she has also played in South American Women’s Championship.
We caught up to hear her story and that of Argentine cricket in this feature.
Zushan Hashmi: Tell me a bit more about how you got involved in cricket in the first place?
Veronica Vasquez: I started playing when I was 10 years old and I used to go to an English School and club where cricket was played by boys and men only. I was part of the first-ever women´s cricket team to play in Argentina and South America.
What has the cricket journey been like for you in a country where exposure to the sport is minimal?
Playing cricket in Argentina has always been a challenge. Being part of the first-ever women´s team in the country sometimes made things difficult, but through the years, women have developed such a huge passion for the game, so now we can say we’ve earned our place in the sport.
In 2019 you made it to the final of the South American Women’s championship, tell me a bit about that experience and the story there?
The South Americas Women´s championships have been the only international opportunity to play for many years in the region. So, reaching the finals is always the aim of every participating and we train during the year to achieve this.
You lost to sporting rivals Brazil, what was that like for you?
Our main goal isn’t just to reach the final but win. We played in many SACs in the past where Argentina was always the leading team.
Now, Brazil has made a huge effort to improve their game, and for us, this is awesome, because in order to develop the game in the region we need all the teams to get really competitive and grow. I hate losing a game, of course, but I am happy that the level of cricket in the region is improving significantly.
Is the rivalry similar to that of Argentina vs Brazil in football, or would you say is a smaller sport, the relationships are much tighter knit?
Sometimes, of course, we have our differences in how to deal with different situations but I guess that is natural when we both come from different cultures. If things are treated with respect every opinion is valid.
The rivalry is always there and it is good that we both have it. Because when both teams enter the field we really are competing, almost as if we are in the final of a world cup.
What has it been like to work with Sian Kelly in leading the team?
Cricket has traditionally been played by men in Argentina. So, finding a local woman’s cricket coach, with a lot of experience has been very difficult for us. We were used to being coached by a man, at all stages.
But when Sian came, things changed. She is a woman with a lot of experience in the game, particularly with women, so it is really handy for us, as she can understand every part of us and our game.
The girls also understand that they have a goal to reach because they see in Sian, a very good player and coach who played at a high level back home in England.
We have men coaches too. So the combination of both has been awesome.
Tell me a little bit about leadership and captaining a cricket team. With sports such as football, the role of a captain is quite minimal, besides, perhaps, raising morale and motivating the team. However, in cricket, a captain needs to understand the game and make quick, critical decisions. Has this been the case for you?
Leading our team is an incredible experience for me. Sometimes it can turn into a very difficult and challenging job. But it still so gratifying at the end of the day that I am always happy with it.
The girls are awesome; they love the game so much, sometimes it is difficult to explain how they reached that level of passion in a country where cricket is not very popular. They work hard every day to achieve our goals. I love this team, I have many friends and I would do anything that I can to do my best in it.
Does this mean you come out of games often questioning whether or not you made the right decision, and if so, how do you keep your focus on the sport rather than overthinking what has been done?
It’s natural to finish a game and try to understand how things went. It’s a process that has to take place, so as to not repeat the same mistakes in the future. Our leadership team is always trying to determine and learn new tactics, watching games and asking experienced people.
Overthinking is not a good thing. Scenarios must be studied, learnt about and you must keep moving onto the next challenge.
Do you think women’s cricket has the potential to play an important role in growing women’s sports in Argentina?
Yes, I think it can. Women’ cricket all over the world is really growing and we hope we can follow that path. Our plan is that eventually, cricket can become a well-known game here at home for every girl, for example as hockey is now.
This is just the beginning and it’s getting bigger and bigger. It seems like the dream that I´ve had for 20 years is now starting to become real.
I would imagine that cricket is the last thing on your mind at the moment, you are also a medical doctor, which must keep you very busy during the pandemic, but also generally?
Nowadays things are very difficult at work. I am an anesthesiologist at the frontline dealing with this virus. People at work are very nervous and we love helping people, which is why we’ve studied this profession, but we are not prepared to die while doing it. So work is now far tougher than usual.
But believe it or not, cricket is always there in my life, we have this weekly meeting by Zoom, where we are divided into groups and some players have to prepare social activities for the rest of the team. It’s our way of keeping in touch and release stress.
How do you manage to play the game, while maintaining your career?
Balancing cricket with other jobs can be challenging sometimes. Many of our players are young students who can easily find time to train.
However, as I am a Doctor, it can be more difficult. Nevertheless, if you love something so much in life you will always find the time for it.
Sometimes, I go to train after a 24-hour shift at work and still perform.
The body is intelligent and it can adapt to difficult situations.
A lot of associate nations talk about the importance of the Olympics in growing the sport in their country. Do you think that would enable more growth in cricket in Argentina?
This is key in growing the sport back home. We need to show the girls that they have something huge to aim for.
Playing an Olympics game or a World Cup is the dream of every athlete. I hope I can live to watch this.
I don’t think I can be part of the team because I am a bit old now but hopefully my future daughters will.
Why do you think cricket is a good sport for young people in Argentina and what do you say to them?
Cricket is a sport that is growing all over the world. It is not as competitive as [field] hockey over here right now, so it gives the girls lots of opportunities to play internationally, to travel the world and to experience several cultures.
They are the protagonists of this movement and they need to make the most of it.
Any other thoughts or comments?
We thank everybody for supporting us, from our families, our representatives at home and in the Americas and all the media that is willing to share our story.
This is just the beginning and it’s getting bigger and bigger. It seems like the dream that we´ve had for 20 years is now starting to become real.