By John L. Aaron
The Katharine Lee Bates 1893 American patriotic song “America the Beautiful” includes the lyrics – “From Sea to Shining Sea,” and for Sugetha Kalyanaraman Chandhrasekar it’s an American dream come through following her path from Chennai to the Sterling Cricket Club; and the opportunity to represent the USA at the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) 2017 Europe T20 Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier next month.
For Sugetha or Kas, as her fellow cricketers call her, it is a beautiful American dream that spans the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, and now the Atlantic Ocean. More importantly for Kas it is a disciplined approach to realizing her life-long dream of playing cricket at the highest level possible. However, she never dreamed that her journey from sea to shining sea would place her on the United States’ list of women cricketers set to represent Katharine Lee Bates’ America the Beautiful at the Sterling Cricket Club Ground in the heart of Scotland, next month.
Kas is not sure when her cricket-playing days began, but recalls being coached professionally while still in the 11th Grade at school in India. She has come a long way from bruised hands attempting to take high catches and missing them, earning her the nick name Kas, short for catch.
Born in the same state of Tamil Nadu as one of India’s most well-known movie stars, Rajinikanth, and Indian international cricketer Ravichandran Ashwin, Kas attended Sir Sivaswami Kalalaya Senior Secondary School in Chennai and is an alumnus of Valliammai Engineering College of SRM University, located in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering. The all-rounder also holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from Clemson University in the USA, and is married and residing in Irvine, CA. She is employed as a software engineer at Arista Networks.
With a winsome smile, Ms. Chandhrasekar vividly recalls her path to USA cricket, and credits her husband Srinivas Raghavan with encouraging her. “My husband usually plays a lot of league games in Southern California, and one day I happened to go to watch his game. Before he was supposed to bat, I was bowling some leg spinners to him . Tiran Mendis, the current President of Orange County Cricket Association, noticed me bowling and strongly insisted I attend an upcoming ICC Cricket Combine, the following week.
Neither my husband nor I, had any prior knowledge of the Combine, however, I ended up traveling to San Francisco and was selected to the USA squad to play a game against a touring MCC women’s squad that included Charlotte Edwards and Claire Taylor; two of England’s foremost women cricketers. I did pretty well in the games, running out the legendary Charlotte Edwards. After that, I was invited as part of the top six women cricketers to a specialist camp organized by ICC Americas.”
Kas is very grateful for the opportunities the Combine and specialist camp provided her, as she got to spend invaluable time with former Australian chinaman specialist bowler Beau Casson, and Australian coach Richard Allanby, among other notable international coaches.
The now USA national player said, “It was a very rewarding experience that was made possible by ICC-Americas. The intricate changes that they suggested created a huge impact on my game. Following that stint, I also played a few matches for CanAm United Women’s Team scoring my first half-century in a T20 match in the USA.”
At an ICC Americas organized Trials session in Indianapolis earlier this year, Kas bowled very well, picking up eight wickets in four matches. She was subsequently selected by ICC Americas, as part of the 14-women squad to represent USA in the 2017 Europe T20 Women’s World Cup Qualifier.
The Pisces born Kas has a younger brother and says the true meaning of her name is “noble-minded.” She has a noble personality to match her moniker, and has certainly blazed a cricketing trail within her side of the family, having represented Tamil Nadu at the Women’s Under-19 level. However, her husband has played professional cricket in India and was a probable player to represent the USA at the ICC’s World Cricket League Division 3 tournament this year in Uganda. He currently plays in the Southern California League.
Remarking on the differences in cricket between the USA and India, the all-rounder said almost every street in India has a cricket academy compared to the USA, she noted that the USA still has a long way to go in terms of its cricket infrastructure, adding, “In India, we played most of our games against other women, but here (the USA) I play more against men rather than women.” She has claimed two male wickets for 17 runs bowling leg-spin in the Southern California Winter Cricket League, and feels that the USA women have a lot of potential and it showed during the recent Selection Trials, where more talented women emerged.
Kas applauds the ICC Americas for doing a wonderful job in bringing all the women together during the past year, and providing the USA with a wild card entry into the 2017 Women’s T20 Qualifier, which she feels will create a better future for women’s cricket in the USA. She summed up her own journey, saying, “A year back I would not have dreamt any of this, it has indeed been a whirlwind year for me, and I am super excited for the upcoming Women’s T20 Qualifier in Scotland.”
When asked what she looks forward to the most in the upcoming tournament, the all-rounder listed being a key contributor in all three aspects of the game, and seeing the USA progress to the Global Qualifiers, as key. In addition to making the USA proud, she is anxiously awaiting touring with a “a bunch of extremely talented girls and amazing support staff,” adding, “I am also looking forward to performing under pressure and being a part of the motivating force for more girls to get into the sport of cricket.”
Among her cricketing heroes she lists Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne, while Charlotte Edwards is one of her favorite women cricketers. Kas has represented Atlantis Cricket Club – NY, CanAm United Women’s Cricket Team, Hollywood, Youth and British & Dominion Cricket Clubs, Orange County Lions Blue Cricket Club, Vintage Cricket Club, and British & Dominion Cricket Club, in the Southern California Winter Cricket League.
With so much cricket, Kas hardly finds time outside of her day job and the sport, for much else; although she does have a passion for photography and hiking. Fortunately, married to a fellow cricketer does help, as she acknowledges that she has a long way to go, but is grateful to so many for helping her find her path, including the Almighty God, her parents, her younger brother for playing endless hours of backyard cricket with her, her personal coach Mr. Shriram Renkenathen, an NCA Level A coach who runs SS Cricket Academy in India, USA coaches Pubudu Dassanayake and Anand Tummala, and all the coaches who have helped her along the way.
She has a special thank you for her husband, because of him, she resumed playing cricket after a five year hiatus. She said, “He pushes me every day to be a better version of myself, and spends endless hours helping me hone my cricketing and mental skills.”
There is no doubt that with passionate players like Sugetha Kalyanaraman Chandhrasekar, USA women’s cricket will go places, and the journey that took such a talented player from Chennai to Irvine, to the ICC Women’s Europe T20 Qualifier in Scotland, will be the pathway for greatness.
In the absence of an ICC Americas qualifier this year, the USA was granted a wildcard berth and faces host Scotland and the Netherlands in a double round robin elimination, between August 14-18 and a chance to advance to the 2018 Women’s World T20 in the West Indies.
We wish Kas and the rest of the ladies, all the very best ahead.