It all begins with a dream. An aspiration, a drive to inspire others and to make a life for oneself that makes sure your eyes beam with pride and satisfaction every morning you wake up. Cricket is not a sport or a game played in every corner of the world. It’s the dream that blooms in every heart, flourishes in every soul and makes one feel alive.
Boundaries are important in the game of cricket, but there are no boundaries for one to earn a name in cricket. The United States Of America has always been a home to baseball and soccer majorly, but cricket being cricket, can never keep people away for long. USA has slowly adopted this beautiful stretch of the 22 Yards and everyone associated with this emerging process, have some wonderful stories to tell.
Sindhu Sriharsha, the captain of the United States of America is certainly one of the most talented and inspiring players the American cricket can get. Born in Bangalore, India, Sindhu started playing cricket at the age of nine. She has represented India A and India U-21 Teams. After her husband’s transfer to USA, she had to go along as well. Countries changed, but the love for cricket remained constant.
Team Female Cricket brings to you the story of this champion, what the World Twenty20 Qualifiers mean to her, how Indian cricket and American cricket boards work and all about her journey in an exclusive interview!
1. Take us down the memory lane, your childhood cricket and how cricket emerged as the most important thing in your life?
Like any Indian kid, I grew up playing gully cricket with my brother and friends on the streets. I was noticed by a former Indian cricketer, who lived close to my home. She suggested joining the only women’s team that was operating in the Bangalore city at that time. I joined the club at the age of 9. It was just a weekend hobby for a couple of years. Then, I slowly started developing more interest and passion for the game. Results started showing up and I was representing the state in all the categories at the age of 13. I believed I had it in me to make it big once I was a regular in u-19 and senior zonal teams and U-21 Indian team touring Pakistan and stared taking up cricket as a full time professional.
2. Where and when did you first start playing cricket and who all have you trained with?
I was coached by Irfan Sait from KIOC, Bangalore. I still contact him for any issues/concerns I have. Some of the big names have come from KIOC ranks under Irfan Sait. Like – Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal, Mamatha Maben, Veda Krishnamurthy, Vanitha VR, and others. The list is long and I can keep going. I have trained with many current and former Indian players.
3. Whom do you idolize as a player and a person?
I have followed Rahul Dravid and Adam Gilchrist’s career closely.
4. What were your struggles in the young days and what has been motivating you ever since?
Some of the earlier struggles in the Indian structure before BCCI took over were getting the right facilities and opportunities to showcase our skills and over time we were given better opportunities with BCCI taking over. USA cricket too in the phase of transition and only better things are yet to happen. Being persistent with my passion and wanting to go out to the field every day to achieve small goals keeps me motivated.
5. Having played U16, U19, U21 for state teams in India, what made you move to the USA and continue your cricketing pursuits?
I relocated to the USA in 2013 due to my husband’s job. I live in the Bay Area, California which has a number of cricket leagues. It’s also one of the places with the USA where cricket can be played 365 days. I contacted a couple of leagues and my friends that I knew from India to explore cricket in the USA. I was introduced to USA cricket in 2013 and ever since I have completely enjoyed my stint so far here.
6. You have also played for Board’s President XI and had the chance to play against England, Australia and New Zealand women’s team. What were the key takeaways from these games and something you still apply in your game?
England, Australia and New Zealand teams pay a lot of attention to Fitness. They look far ahead than us on the field due to their fitness levels. I believe, skill-wise we are all the same. USA cricket is also working out a structure in order to give importance to fitness. I have been trying to work on getting fitter every day to gain that little advantage on the field which would allow us to score more runs, atop more runs and eventually be able to win games.
7. There are good and bad days both on and off the field. As a captain, how do you ensure that every player goes with a positive and fresh attitude into the game?
It’s important to keep the players motivated at all stages. By reiterating the strengths of each individual we can up their confidence. It’s important to focus on the good things and move on as quickly as possible to the next day. On and off days are part of the game, as a team, we get together to discuss the good things and areas of improvement and get in with the next day. I advise the players to trust their process.
8. You have some captaincy experience leading the USA side now, how do you define your captaincy tactics and how has it impacted you as a player and the team?
I have been leading this side on and off for over 2 years now. I would like to believe I’m a player’s captain. I believe in doing a lot of homework before I go into the field and then let my instincts take over. Working with our Coach, Julia Price has been excellent. We have been given complete freedom to express ourselves with guidance from Julia. Captaincy has also helped my cricket. It gives me a wholesome picture of the entire game and keeps me on my toes throughout and pushes me out of my comfort zones. It’s a challenge that I’m totally enjoying.
9. Were your parents supportive about your decision of playing cricket professionally?
Yes, my parents have always been supportive of my cricketing career. My mom has played a huge part in my career.
10. Where has USA Women’s cricket reached from the time you started playing?
USA cricket has been on an upward scale from the time I started. We played our first qualifiers after a gap of 7yrs by getting a wild card entry to Europe qualifiers in 2017. We didn’t get the results we needed but gained a lot of experience and it prepared us for the next tournaments.
11. Where do you see USA cricket in another 5-6 years and how do you think you can get there? What’s stopping it now?
We’ll have a new men’s T20 franchise league starting by 2021 which means the USA would have much-needed facilities throughout the country. USA Cricket is working on a robust plan to establish a domestic infrastructure that will support the development of our cricket.
12. What are a few structural changes, if any that will take cricket in the USA to a whole new level?
USA Cricket has already started making those structural changes. We have a newly-elected board since September 2018 and a new CEO came on board this month. USA Cricket signed a long-term agreement with American Cricket Enterprises (ACE) who will invest a significant amount of money over the next decade and help us develop our infrastructure while they launch a T20 franchise league.
13. The ICC Women’s Global Twenty20 qualifiers are on the cards, what approach are the team and you as the captain planning to follow?
We have been preparing for this from the past 6 months. We have met as a team multiple times in the past few months. Julie Price (Coach) has put down a program both as individuals and as teams for us to follow. We are showing great progress both skill-wise and fitness levels. I believe as a team we are in a great position going into the qualifiers.
14. Which has been your most favorite cricket memory so far?
America’s qualifiers in Florida, 2019 against Canada is my favorite cricket memory. Qualifying to globals after 8 years is a great high.
15. USA has made it to both the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier and the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2020 after defeating Canada in May this year. What’s the next target?
The most obvious next target is to make it to the World Cup. We are one step away from it. This is a great opportunity for the sport in the USA. This will motivate the youngsters to pick the sport. Competing with the bigger teams and being exposed to this level is only going to improve cricket in the USA.
16. USA will be playing global qualifiers after 8 years. How excited is the team? How’s the training going and the team atmosphere like?
As a team, we dreamt and worked hard to be in this position. Regional qualifiers were Step 1 towards the World Cup. I’m glad all our efforts and commitment paid off at the regionals. But, it’s the beginning of something BIG for USA cricket. Qualifying to global qualifiers after 8 years is surreal. As a team, we are looking forward to the opportunity to showcase our talent and skills to the larger cricket playing nations.
17. We at Female Cricket try our best to promote and encourage women’s cricket. Help us make it better with your suggestions?
Female cricket needs to be more visible. Not sure if everyone is aware of your existence. It needs to gain more popularity.