Charlotte Serwadi’s interest in cricket was sparked by a Bakers Mini-Cricket Festival at Masingita Primary School when she was just six. It is a passion that has seen her go on to play and then develop a keen interest in other aspects that are integral to the sport.
Serwadi is now the cricket services manager at Northerns Cricket Union, serving as an important conduit between the playing field and the administration. She hasn’t forgotten how the seed of cricket was planted and hopes more and more women with a passion for the game can also find a path into the structures.
“Mrs Vuma was the teacher who was coaching mini-cricket. She was also a member at Mamelodi Cricket Club, where she managed the Mamelodi girls and women’s cricket.
“I played mini-cricket until the age of 10 when I was invited to a girls’ practise at Mamelodi Oval. I was very excited because I knew I would be training with my older sister, who had started playing two years before me,” said Serwadi.
It wasn’t straightforward and because of financial constraints, she and her sister would walk 6km to and from the ground to train twice a week. But it was worth it because the cricket bug had bitten.As she surveys the cricket landscape now, Serwadi is well aware that there is still a long way for the game to go in terms of access and opportunity.
“We grew up knowing that cricket is a very expensive sport. I knew if wanted to continue playing I’d have to do it by myself because my family couldn’t afford to buy me equipment.”It is a reality for many who are introduced to the game and that initial barrier keeps many would-be cricketers away.
For Serwadi, her promise saw her play for Northerns from u-13 right through to the academy, where she and Yolandi Bronkhorst were the first two women’s cricketers to be part of the intake.
“That was where I learnt to work with men and got to understand their world. It made me a better cricketer indeed, but unfortunately not quite good enough to crack a spot in the Women’s Proteas squad,” she said.
Those were long days because the academy dictated that there were academic classes until 2pm. She then had to rely on her brother, Edward Khoza (also still involved in the game), for transport once he had finished work. She would spend those hours waiting wisely, volunteering in the Northerns offices, filing and compiling club cricket statistics and getting familiar with the systems used.
Her good intentions did not go unnoticed and ultimately led to bigger things.
“On our last day at the academy Mr Frost, who was the cricket services manager, called me into his office and asked me to come and see him the next Monday, and to bring my CV,” Serwadi remembers.
That was how her journey within the structures of the Northerns Cricket Union started. It is a tale of passion meeting opportunity and she remains very grateful of the door that opened.
Serwadi has risen through the ranks and now holds the position Frost once held. In that time, she has also seen the women’s game advance dramatically.
“Back then, people were surprised when I told them I play cricket. Women’s cricket wasn’t popular then, so Cricket South Africa and the ICC must be commended for the progress and the effort made to get the game to where it is today,” said Serwadi.
“Players get contracted now, like the men, and the interest and the growth is tremendous. During my playing days, we never had a white ball competition at provincial level. There was a big shift in 2009, and the women’s game is in a far better place now.”
Despite the advancements, Serwadi said there is always room for improvement and points out the massive gap between men and women in pay, as well as increasing the awareness around the women’s game. With South Africa scheduled to host the next Women’s World Cup, she is confident there will be more done for the game domestically.
“As much as women’s cricket is growing, it’s still not where we would like it to be. Players are only contracted at international level and the number of contracts offered is not equal to the Proteas men’s side,” she said.
“We will continue to work hard and try to promote women’s cricket until players are contracted at provincial level like the men’s game. I know CSA is working very hard in this regard.”
Like the rest of the country, Northerns were hit hard by the ongoing pandemic, and Serwadi explained the past few months have been some of the most challenging of her career.
“Everything I know and learnt to this point was through observing the people I looked up to as my mentors and from courses I have done to better myself. But none of these courses could have prepared any of us to deal with what is happening in the world today,” she said.
“The pandemic is something we have never experienced as a country and the Covid-19 virus has brought everything to a stand-still. It’s been very tough, but the culture of this company helps me deal with the pressure. The support from my team, superiors, stakeholders and the board has been tremendous. I’ve realised I have so much backing and support and it makes things a lot easier for me to work, knowing I do not have to do everything on my own,” she said of her working environment.
Beyond lockdown, she looks forward to the cricket machine clicking back into gear, and to have the usual interactions around the game.”I have made a lot of friends throughout my journey, and I can proudly say I do not regret the choices I made to get involved in this beautiful game,” she said. Her journey has been more than worth it, but she hopes there is still much more to come.
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