USA Cricket announced its Women’s U19 Training Group yesterday and Maryland led the way, with over 25% of the national list coming from the state. More dramatically, nearly all players selected from the entire Eastern United States are from Maryland, home to less than 2% of the US population. Marylanders selected were Lisa Ramjit, Alicia Fernando, Anika Kumar, Kasturi Vedantham, and Nishka Kumar. Sixteen year-old Ramjit, the leading wicket-taker for the USA Women’s national side, was also included in the senior list.
Much of the credit for Maryland’s dominance in women’s youth cricket belongs to its development system, led by coach Sham Chotoo. All five of these homegrown stars first learned to play in the BEST or WAMS school leagues, after Chotoo had visited their schools to demonstrate cricket. The school leagues introduce young children to the game and are designed to maximize player participation, making it fun for everyone.
Fernando, Anika Kumar, Vedantham, and Nishka Kumar then had the opportunity to play in the Maryland Girls league, which is designed for beginners. The girls then graduated to more competitive travel teams in the Maryland state championship competition. They started off playing for coed teams primarily against teams of all boys. Alicia, Anika, Kasturi, and Nishka then played for the first ever girls leather-ball team against boys teams in the state championship season.
Maryland now boasts America’s only girls state team, which provides additional opportunities for rising female players.
Having a state association dedicated to growing local grassroots cricket, along with visionaries like Sham Chotoo, has created a perfect ecosystem to develop youth players in Maryland. With Zones and Areas being too vast to be manageable, and cities too small to provide elevated competition, our state association has demonstrated “proof of concept” for youth cricket development. When state associations are the standard rather than the exception, only then will America realize its cricketing potential.