Meet USA Under-19 all-rounder Jivana Lee Aras who claims that she wouldn’t have found cricket if it weren’t for the COVID-19 lockdown. Here she talks about herself and her cricket aspirations.
Where and how did you get involved with cricket? Please tell us a bit about yourself. (Such as where you were born and where in the USA you currently reside).
I was born and raised and currently reside in Bellevue, in the greater Seattle area in Washington State. My mother was born in South Korea and was brought to the US when she was eight. My father was born in India and came to the US for graduate school.
I watched cricket for the first time in March 2020. It was the women’s T20 World Cup in Australia, and I was impressed by the finals between India and Australia. That same week, Covid stopped all my activities —school, robotics, soccer, karate, and hanging out with friends. Sensing my frustration, my father offered to teach me cricket around the start of the Covid lockdown. I was initially non-committal, but being curious about this new sport, I agreed. My goal then was to do well at a USA Cricket-organized talent ID event.
That’s how it started. So, if it weren’t for the Covid lockdown, I would not have found cricket.
How important is this tournament (ICC Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup) to you?
I firmly believe that the fate of cricket making the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028 depends on Team USA’s performance at this U19 World Cup. Will the host country, which typically gets an automatic spot, has a women’s team that, in six short years, can compete with the best in cricket at the 2028 Olympics? Is there enough young talent in this country? Team USA at this U19 World Cup will need to prove there is.
Why is getting cricket in the Olympics that important?
This U19 World Cup is our platform to have the cricket world and the non-cricket world in the USA stand up and take notice – USA Women’s Cricket is here and has a bright future.
What needs to be done to attract more female cricketers in the USA?
Until early 2022, I was the only girl playing leather ball cricket in Seattle. At the annual youth league award ceremony, the local women politicians were disappointed that there was only one female player. Major League Cricket Academy announced a weekend program for girls with me as the assistant coach and wanted local political support to get space and funding for a cricket stadium in the area. We started with 72 girls, of which 25 are now playing competitively.
Our academies and adult leagues need to understand the importance of promoting youth and women’s cricket to get the support we need from the larger community. It is also essential for all of us to understand the importance of building more diversity and encouraging youth outside of the South Asian community to take on the sport. Academies and adult leagues must invest funds and volunteer time to take cricket into our schools and encourage all students to participate.
However, I believe that the inclusion of cricket in the Olympics will have the most significant impact on taking cricket to the masses in this country. It will have a more significant impact on women’s cricket in this country. I firmly believe that we can do with cricket in this decade what the USA women’s soccer team did to popularize that sport in the 1990s.
Also, for the overall development of the sport, we need better facilities for cricket. In November 2021 and July 2022, with Minor League Cricket, I presented at Bellevue City Council meetings and asked for better facilities for cricket. These efforts led Bellevue and King County to conduct a feasibility study to build an international-grade cricket stadium at Marymoor Park in Redmond. The council also specifically asked me to co-write Bellevue Park’s Levy-Lid-Lift Proposition No. 1 statement on the November 2022 ballot, which was recently approved.
Bellevue City Council Nov 2021 meeting https://youtu.be/loZEozFZdNg?t=622
Bellevue City Council July 2022 meeting https://youtu.be/R8YWU5MkXQw?t=294
November 2022 Elections https://info.kingcounty.gov/kcelections/Vote/contests/ballotmeasures.aspx?lang=en-US&cid=100553&groupname=City
We all need to do more.
What are your plans for a possible professional cricket career?
I graduated high school in June 2022 while completing an Associate’s degree in Arts and Sciences, a two-year college degree. Since graduating, I have focused 100% of my time on cricket and have decided not to start at a four-year university until I have gone as far as I can go with my cricket career.
I have been invited to play at the 2023 FairBreak Canberra Games in Australia in February under coach Geoff Lawson and the FairBreak T20 Invitational in Hong Kong in April, playing with and competing against some international superstars.
I would love to play in the BBL or the IPL and work diligently towards those goals.
Who are the people you’ve most enjoyed speaking to and learning the game from so far?
My father and other coaches I have spent some time with – Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Julia Price, Asif Mujtaba, Shadley Van Schalkwyk, Clint Copeland, and Sameer Dighe.
What milestones do you want to achieve in cricket?
Some difficult but not impossible milestones would be to win the 2023 U19 World Cup in South Africa.
My more realistic milestone would be to win Olympic gold in cricket at the Olympics in 2028 (ICC, please make 2028 happen). Another would be winning all T20 and ODI World Cups from 2028 onwards, at least until I retire, and having the USA play Test cricket from 2028 onwards.
My professional cricket championship milestones would be playing in the IPL and BBL leagues. I hope that by 2032 women’s cricket in the USA will be at the same level globally as women’s soccer and tennis. I also hope that cricket will be a vehicle to lift women in the USA and across the world.
By 2032 I hope at least 32 countries are playing Women’s T20 cricket at the ICC full-member level.
Secret personal goals
• Be the highest wicket-taker in all game formats and with the best economy rate.
• Deliver the fastest ball ever bowled in cricket.
• Be the most entertaining batter in cricket.
• Be the best player ever to have played cricket (I just watched Messi win a World Cup).
How do you spend your time away from cricket?
Bouldering, painting art, hanging out with friends, hiking, and camping.
If you weren’t playing cricket, what other sport would you have been playing?
Soccer (I played Varsity soccer), and I have a Black Belt in Karate.
Is there any other domestic or international player that you model your game after?
It would be Brett Lee and Javagal Srinath for bowling, and for batting, it would be India’s Hardik Pandya and England’s Ben Stokes.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Social, Leader, Follower. Sometimes I lead, and sometimes I follow – I must do them both well to be an effective team player.