FairBreak Invitational re-imagined cricket for the better – and it worked

New women’s T20 tournament finds its place after memorable debut in Dubai

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It is highly likely the FairBreak Invitational will not come back to Dubai.

The new T20 tournament is a privately organised venture, run in conjunction with Cricket Hong Kong.

It only came to the UAE for its pilot edition this month because of the logistical challenges of the lengthy Covid quarantine process in that territory.

In his closing comments after Sunday’s final, Shaun Martyn, the tournament’s founder, said he is already looking forward to welcoming everyone to Hong Kong in March 2023.

Which is a pity. It has been a blast. But at least we can say we were there when cricket was re-imagined for the better.

In some ways, it was exactly like every other start-up tournament. Six teams with no discernible identity. Spurious names. Flashy kits.

A plain format – round-robin, then semis and a final. All played at a stadium which had seen it all before. After all, more T20 cricket has been played the Dubai International Stadium than any other cricket ground in the world.

And yet it was so, so much more. The pervading feeling among the FairBreak players could not have been anymore different to the atmosphere of the travelling circus of men’s T20 cricket.

All too often, the samey shows of the franchise circuit in the men’s game carry with them a strong air of entitlement. The usual players, turning up to perform on demand, and perhaps wondering: “Who is it we are playing for again today?”

Contrast that with FairBreak. For the majority of the tournament it felt as though at least two-thirds of the players involved were pinching themselves and thinking: Am I really here? Is this really happening to me?

Take the testimonies from two of the tournament’s great success stories. Sita Rana Magar, who played for the eventual winners - the Tornadoes - works in the Armed Police Force of Nepal when she is not bowling left-arm spin.

Her wicket celebrations gave the event some of its most vivid images. First, via the “Pushpa” hand gesture which went viral in cyberspace.

Then by way of a salute which brought to mind Sheldon Cottrell’s trademark celebration, but more likely was in reference to her day job.

“It’s been nothing less than a dream come true for me,” Magar said. “A great learning experience and a lifetime of memory playing for Team Tornadoes.”

Then there was Anju Gurung, a left-arm seamer from Bhutan for whom the tournament was memorable for two reasons which stick out more than most.

Firstly, her Falcons team made it to the final. And, secondly, she went to a beach for the first time.

“Me being part of the campaign, to be honest, has changed my life,” Gurung said.

“I can believe, I can dream, and now I have the strength to break the barriers. I am not anymore the same.”

Everywhere you looked, there were players who could echo those sentiments.

A Rwandan seamer who dismissed the world’s No 1 allrounder. Argentine pace bowlers. Brazilian all-rounders. Malaysian trailblazers.

And a Palestinian engineer who was so engaging she turned her hand to conducting the pitch report before one game, too.

All of which is all very lovely and everything. But it would not have stacked up had players from cricket’s nether reaches been no good at playing.

And if this tournament showed anything, it is that talent can blossom anywhere, given the chance.

With an even playing field, the best of the rest showed that they can play alongside the best of the best, and thrive.

FairBreak Invitational team of the tournament

Updated: May 16, 2022, 9:42 AM