The USA Under-19 Women’s team qualified directly for the World Cup in South Africa after being the only team from the Americas, eligible for qualification and skipper Geetika is confident of a few upsets.
Playing cricket as a child is always mesmerising – out on the streets in India or in the backyard in USA. While the rules are extremely different, the excitement remains the same.
While most children play their hearts out when young but change their paths after a point in time, a few of them take their love for the sport seriously.
Geetika Kodali is one such athlete, who took it seriously. But she was also someone who didn’t hesitate to experiment with almost all other options before finally choosing cricket as the love of her life.
Born in USA, but having an Indian origin – through her parents who migrated to USA after their marriage – cricket, probably, was Geetika’s calling.
“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, Geetika recalled in an exclusive conversation with Firstpost.
“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 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,” she added.
Geetika, a right-hand all-rounder, is on the verge of making history, captaining the USA Under-19 women’s side at the inaugural Women’s Under-19 World Cup in South Africa.
One of her earliest memories and an event that acted as a catalyst was watching USA Women play against Pakistan Women in Florida. “That was like the moment I was like, I want to play for USA one day.” And her journey to the international stage is nothing less than a dream-like anecdote.
“We don’t have cricket in schools yet, so I started at the club called Cricket Zeal Academy. Actually, the coach at the academy was the head coach of the USA’s National Women’s team. So, he guided me really well,” Geetika said.
Geetika never expected to play for an Under-19 team, as there never was one when she started playing. She also made her debut for the Women’s team at the tender age of 14, playing against Canada in the ICC Women’s World T20 qualifier in May 2019.
But now, she will be captaining the Under-19 side on an important stage. “I’m thrilled and delighted that I’m going to be the captain in the first ever ICC under-19 World Cup. It’s always been a dream of mine to lift the trophy for the USA one day. When I first started cricket, we didn’t have an under-19 team, so I always assumed it was gonna be for the women’s team, but I’m glad that we have this opportunity to lift the cup within the next few weeks.”
‘Don’t have hard time captaining, because there is just a fire in the team’
The all-rounder is quite confident about her team and has known her players quite well over a period of time playing in regional tournaments.
“We’re all very familiar with each other because about two years ago, our domestic pathway started. So we’ve all been playing, like intra-regional and regional games with each other. And then in this past year (2022), we had four tournaments and we were actually champions in all of those four tournaments, but we were able to develop some strategies and have some nice team bonding. So I hope that momentum and confidence take us well in this Under-19 World Cup,” Geetika said.
The captain is also sure about her team’s motivation going on to the field. She said that the team is already on a song on a match day and that eases out her job as the captain. “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.”
However, if she ever needs to take up things into her hands, she uses Bollywood references rather than giving a serious pep talk to the squad.
“A lot of us have watched the movie 83 and in that movie, Kapil Dev, he actually has a few quotes that we just say to each other to make each other laugh all the time,” Geetika re-collected an incident from USA’s clash against UAE Under-19.
“It was the fourth game and we were down in the series two to one. So we had to win this fourth game to have a chance of winning the series. So before we went out, in the circle (huddle), I said that the match was a ‘Do and Die match’ instead of a ‘do or die match’, because that was the quote from the movie. And so we all started laughing and then, we went onto the field and we actually ended up winning that game (laughs).”
USA are pitted in Group A alongside Australia, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Despite of some strong sides with significant experience in their group, Geetika is confident of creating an upset or two at the World Cup.
“We came to South Africa a week ago and our preparations have been going really well. The team has been improving and working really hard, and I think that we will be able to cause some major upsets,” Geetika signed off.
This article originally appeared on https://www.firstpost.com/ and was reproduced here with permission