National Women’s Cricket League

State Girls Team Plays Historic First Series

News August 5, 2020 admin

National Women’s Cricket League
Photos by by Susan Chotoo

The National Women’s Cricket League tournament was conducted in Howard County, Maryland from July 31 –August 2. Initially, six teams were scheduled to participate, however, due to COVID-19, only two teams made it to the tournament, and all players were under 19 years old.

These were the first matches for the Maryland State Girls Team, and all of the players were eager to participate. Their opposition, the NWCL Daredevils, was a national all-star team consisting of players from Missouri, Georgia, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

Of the 25 girls who participated in the tournament, 20 were from Maryland and Virginia, and 17 of those girls learned to play cricket in the Maryland Youth Cricket program. Most of the girls knew each other from playing together in previous tournaments or leagues.

Maryland Mustangs Recap
The NWCL Daredevils and the Maryland Mustangs were fairly evenly matched. The two teams played against each other five times, and the Daredevils won four of the five, but the margin of victory was less than 10 runs or a few wickets each time.

The Mustangs grew closer as a team over the course of the three days and learned important lessons from each of their four consecutive losses. Their captain, Amrutha Alibilli, was in charge of the team for less than a month and was finding her way as the tournament progressed. Amrutha has been the steady rock for the Mustangs as an opening bowler and opening batsman. And, she is always ready and willing to put the needs of the team in front of her own.

By the time Game 5 came around, Amrutha was in full command and control of the team, while taking advice from her teammates as she made them part of the decision-making process. It does not hurt to have a current USA National Women’s Team player on your side. Lisa Ramjit was certainly a cut above the rest at the tournament. Lisa batted with a level of maturity and patience beyond her 15 years.

Lisa hit the only two sixes in the tournament and received the tournament’s Best Batswoman award for scoring the most runs. Her bowling accuracy was second to none and her agility on the field was terrific. Lisa’s participation in the tournament raised the level of play for her teammates and opponents.

After losing four games in a row, the Mustangs decided that enough was enough, and it was time to make a statement. Opening fast bowler and Vice-Captain, Stephie Janey, realized that she had to step up her game and reduce the number of wides and short-pitched deliveries.

Stephie is from a non-cricket background, and learned to play just four years ago at Whitehall Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland. Skipper Amrutha struck first by having Jessica send a catch to Stephie at short mid-on. Right after, Stephie had Ritu pop-up the ball to mid-on and saw Jenna Knight take a running catch to dismiss Ritu. Kasturi Vedantham’s smooth run-up and fiery pace bowling was right on the money. Kasturi was the most economical bowler in the tournament.

At the end of the first 10 overs in Game 5, Daredevils were four wickets for 27 runs with three of their top batsmen back in the tent pavilion. The best was yet to come. Jenna Knight is another player whose family did not know anything about cricket before she started playing cricket in the elementary school league in Bowie five years ago.

For her very first ball, Jenna had Taranum edge a catch to wicketkeeper Urenna Acholonu. Urenna’s parents are from Nigeria and did not know much about cricket until Urenna started playing cricket for Heather Hills Elementary School five years ago. Four balls later, Jenna bowled Anika. Jenna took three more wickets and ended with figures of 2.4 overs, five wickets for seven runs. What an amazing accomplishment from a girl who almost did not make it to this game because of pain in both feet that had caused her to sit out Game 4. The Daredevils were bowled out for 66 runs in 19.4 overs.

The Mustangs changed up their batting order to have Amrutha open with Lekha Shetty. Lekha also bowls leg-spin and is an excellent fielder, who always moves swiftly to the ball. Lekha was unlucky as she did not move her foot quite to the pitch of the ball and was bowled by a beauty of a delivery from Anika Sana Sanwal then joined Amrutha at the crease. Sana is a good all-rounder for the Mustangs.

She is a medium pace bowler with good accuracy and a good fielder. Sana played across the line of the ball and was out LBW to Anika. With two wickets down for five runs, Lisa joined Amrutha. They both steadied the ship taking the score to 42 before Lisa was bowled by Ritu. Amrutha departed next falling victim to Ritu in the same over by giving a catch to Jessica in the gully.

Twenty-four runs were needed and the Mustangs had six wickets in hand. Kasturi and Sanvi Gopisetti were now at bat. In Game 4, Kasturi proved her worth with the bat scoring 29 runs. In that game, Kasturi and Sanvi put on a display of excellent running between wickets for their teammates. Sanvi is certainly not a big hitter, but she is good at guiding the ball in the gaps and taking quick singles.

However, this day was a different day and both girls could only add 12 more runs before they departed. Gabrielle Hart was up next to face the pressure. This is her first year playing leather ball cricket. Two years ago she started in the elementary school league. Gabby is a seam bowler that gets a huge in-swing. She plays with a straight bat and has a good defense.

Gabby is also a wicketkeeper and an athletic fielder. Going for a pull shot, Gabby mistimed the ball and popped a catch back to the bowler Sravya. Jenna is also a hard-hitting batsman with a good defense. But she went after a ball on the leg-side and edged a catch to Alicia.

Now it was up to the Mustangs’ two veteran players, Stephie and Urenna, to score six runs in 3.2 overs. Advaitha Gante was padded-up and was the last player left if Stehpie or Urenna were to get out. Advaitha is new to cricket and got her first chance at bat in a game the day before. Skipper Alicia brought back Nishka into the attack. Her first delivery was unplayable as Urenna watched it go by.

A couple of wides saw the Mustangs score inch closer to their target. Urenna then hit a ball to backward square-leg to get a single putting Stephie on strike. One more wide had the score level. Then Stephie hit the ball to backward point to score the winning run. The Mustangs parents and players on the sidelines were up on their feet cheering on Stephie and Urenna for bringing home the game to secure their first victory.

Two of the lady Mustangs missed the final day due to injury. Anushka Ganoo had a bad knee for the past month and was not able to fully prepare for the tournament. Anu had been the leader of the Mustangs and provide good moral support to the team. Anu gets the ball to swing in the air, and she has a good defense when batting. Anu took a beautiful one-handed catch with the ball above her head in Game 2.

Sanika Zarkar started playing tennis ball cricket last year, then switched to leather ball cricket. In Game 4 Sanika took 3 wickets in one over to swing a one-sided game into the favor of the Mustangs. Her slow lobs tempted the batters to go after it and pop-up catches.

NWCL Daredevils Recap
The Daredevils’ captain, Alicia Fernando, was in total control on the field from the start, and her execution and experience behind the stumps combined with her sensible batting played an important part in her team’s victories. Alicia was the MVP in Game 2. The hard-hitting Ritu Singh starred in Game 4 by putting down a smack attack on the Mustangs, racing to 38 with 5 fours. Ritu also bowled well, getting the prized wicket of Lisa Ramjit twice.

Anika Kumar earned MVP honors in Game 1 for her all round performance with bat, ball, and fielding. Nishka Kumar’s excellent running between wickets and placing the balls in the gaps and over the fielders’ heads were pivotal to the Daredevils victory in Game 3 to clinch the series for her team. Nishka earned the player of the series award.

The tournament’s Best Bowler award went to Sravya Kanumuri with six wickets bowling three to four overs per game. Sravya’s consistently accurate spin bowling was difficult to put away and caused problems for the lady Mustangs.

The Daredevils’ Jessica Willathgamuwa and Taranum Chopra showed their potential at the tournament. Jessica is a tall, left-handed, pace bowler and a hard-hitting, left-handed batsman. Taranum is a sound, technically correct, opening batsman. Shrusti Amula started playing cricket less than a year ago and is improving significantly. Her four runs in Game 1 were critical to the Daredevils win. Disha Dhingra is more of a batsman than bowler, but her bowling was invaluable to Daredevils’ victories.

After shaky first overs, Disha was able tighten-up and hold a consistent line and length for the rest of her bowling spells. Sisters Veditha and Sreelaya Ramesh played for their Chantilly, Virginia girls team last year in the Girls Division of the Maryland state championship competition. Many of the other girls also played in this competition. This year Veditha and Sreelaya played for the Future Stars School of Cricket (FSSC). Both girls took important catches at key points that resulted in wins for the Daredevils.

An important moment of this tournament was when Thilini Don got her first chance to bat in Game 5. Even though she only lasted a few deliveries, it was an extremely proud moment for her father, Milroy Don.

Coach Milroy has trained hundreds of youngsters over the years and has been a driving force behind the development of youth cricket in the Washington DC area. His FSSC teams are top-notched and dominate the local youth leagues at all levels. But, for this tournament, Coach Milroy was just another proud papa watching his 11 year old daughter playing the game that he loves.

Historic Tournament
This opportunity was priceless for all the girls. This was the first time that many of the girls played against another all-girls team. The girls were able to see where they stood relative to other female cricketers in the USA. The girls will work harder to become better cricketers. For women’s cricket to flourish in the USA, there needs to be many more of these all-girls competitions.

Kudos to the USYCA organizers, Ranjeet Singh and his team, for persisting through adversity with all the uncertainties from COVID-19. Falgun Patel and his HCCL team hosted the event and made sure everything went smoothly.

Brian Walters from USA Cricket Committee on Youth and Grassroots Development was present for all three days. Brian was impressed with what he saw and was amazed with Jenna’s 5-wicket haul. On Twitter, Brian said, “AMAZING facility and program that you all have in MD- a template for the rest of the country to follow.”