(September 12, 2023) In recent years, cricket has transcended its traditional stronghold in the eastern part of the world and found a burgeoning popularity in unexpected corners, notably the USA and Canada. Across America, school and college competitions are now a common sight, drawing a vibrant pool of young talent aspiring to carve a career in this exciting sport, and the United States’ entry into the International Cricket Council (ICC) not too long ago marked a significant milestone. The nation has even ventured into major international tournaments in both men’s and women’s cricket. And leading the charge for the USA U-19 Women’s Cricket team is a remarkable young Indian-origin cricketer, Geetika Kodali, who started her international career at the age of fourteen.
“It is an excellent time to get involved with cricket in the US. The sport of cricket is currently receiving a lot of attention and funding, and both men and women have several opportunities opening up,” the young cricketer recently said in an interview, adding, “I’m grateful to benefit from everyone who represented the nation before me and battled for these chances to support the next generation. I hope this will encourage a lot more girls to start playing cricket, and they will also have the chance to play franchise cricket in the future. The USA women’s pathway has provided the female cricketers in the country with many stages in which they could showcase their talents.”
In the fast lane
Born in California to Indian immigrants – Kodali Prashant and Madavi, who are originally from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh – Geetika spent most of her childhood years in Morrisville, North Carolina. Although she was first introduced to cricket through her family and friends, the youngster instantly fell in love with the small bat and ball her father had got her.
“I started playing sports a lot when I was a child. I would switch sports every season. So, I started with soccer and then basketball and then volleyball, tennis, and swimming. Like, it just kept going,” the cricketer said, adding, “But then at 11, I came across cricket and I didn’t know it was being played in America professionally. Until then, I would just play with my cousins in the backyard, like gully cricket, and if you hit a car, you get out. So that’s how far my expertise went. But then I started professional training and I just fell in love with the sport, so I never switched back to any other sport.”
One of her earliest memories, which catalysed her passion, was witnessing a match between the USA Women’s team and the Pakistan Women’s team in Florida. “That was like the moment I was like, I want to play for USA one day,” the Global Indian recalled. And the cricketer’s ascent to the international stage reads like a surreal tale.
The Captain’s call
Geetu or Geets, as she is referred to by her friends counts Australian fast bowler Josh Hazlewood as one of her favourite cricketers. Her penchant for delivering medium-pace bouncers to opposition batters may be influenced by this admiration. At 11, she started training at the club called Cricket Zeal Academy, where her coach was also the head coach of the USA’s National Women’s team. “He trained me very well,” she recalled, “I never expected to play for an Under-19 team because there wasn’t one when I first started playing. My debut for the Women’s team came at the age of 14 when I played against Canada in the ICC Women’s World T20 qualifier in May 2019.”
In 2022, the Trinbago Knight Riders acquired the young cricketer as an overseas player for the debut edition of The 6ixty, hosted in the West Indies. And it was here that Geetika shocked the world, and made history by becoming the first player to claim the first-ever hat trick in the history of the “6ixty” for TKR against the Barbados Royals. The cricketer dismissed three notable wickets – Hayley Matthews, Britney Cooper, and Chloe Tryon, who collectively boast an impressive tally of 449 international matches among them. “It is an incredible feeling to take the first Hat Trick in the history of the Sixty competition. When I entered this event, I never imagined that I would be making history. I was thrilled to make an early breakthrough,” the cricketer said, “I have had tremendous support from the team on and off the field, and we have faith in one another’s abilities.”
Later the same year, the cricketer was chosen to captain the USA Under-19 women’s national team for the 2023 ICC Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup, which is also set to be the inaugural edition of the ICC Women’s Under-19 Cricket World Cup. Talking about captaining the team, the youngster said, “When it comes to motivating the team, I never have a hard time because as soon as game day hits or even the night before, everyone is super excited and like, there’s just a fire in the team, so we all want to come back with the cup or come back with the win on a given day. In the morning there’ll be a lot of music and we’ll all be super competitive and fired up and the warm-ups will be extra chaotic.”