Q&A with USA’s 6ixty history-maker Geetika Kodali

USA Bowler and Women's Vice Captain Geetika Kodali bowls

USA Cricket’s women’s vice captain, 18 year old Geetika Kodali, made history recently by claiming the first ever hat trick in the history of the “6ixty” for Trinbago Knight Riders against the Barbados Royals. The new short format competition (60 balls per innings), which includes mens and women’s Caribbean Premier League teams, concluded before the start of the CPL last week.

Perhaps what’s most impressive is who Geetika dismissed for her three wickets: Hayley Matthews, Britney Cooper, and Chloe Tryon, who have a combined 449 international matches between them.

Having participated in two Firebreak Invitational events, including May’s two week, six team league which featured four members of USA Cricket’s women’s teams, franchise cricket is no longer new for the tall, fast bowling American all rounder.

Geetika has become a regular in the TKR playing eleven, playing in all three matches in the WCPL this season, taking one wicket in five overs, and batting twice.

It may surprise many cricket fans to come across an 18 year old American in franchise cricket. USA head coach, and West Indies legend, Shivanarine Chanderpaul will be amongst those least surprised. Geetika has displayed international leadership already in her young age, leading Chanderpaul’s U19 team as captain in a recent five game series, winning four games to one.

‘As a captain and as a vice captain, she never really left anyone out,’ Chanderpaul told Emerging Cricket after the Cricket West Indies Rising Stars tournament, during which USA defeated Trinidad in the final game to remain undefeated. ‘She makes sure that everyone is included and whatever is said, Geetika is going with whatever plan we make and she’s clear with them.’

Joining Geetika in the CPL are two other teenaged USA Cricketers: Isani Vaghela and Snigdha Paul. Both of them have recently had player diaries published on USA Cricket’s website. Geetika’s player diary is coming up as well.

Geetika Kodali is clearly a top emerging talent at an exciting time for women’s cricket in the USA and around the world. Read on for some insight, in her own words, into what it’s like to be a young American cricketer at an exciting crossroads for the sport.

How does it feel to record the first ever Hat Trick in the 6ixty? 

Geetika – It is an incredible feeling to take the first Hat Trick in the history of the Sixty competition. When I entered this event, I never imagined that I would be making history. I was thrilled to make an early breakthrough when I entered the game to bowl the second over, and Hayley Matthews’ leading edge was caught by Sheneta Grimmond at point. It was a game that our TKR team needed to win to stay in the running for the finals. Next, getting Britney Cooper out added to the fuel and had the whole team as confident as ever. For the hat-trick ball, Chloe Tryon attempted to flick one down the leg and left her crease for a brief moment, but Kycia Knight did an excellent job stumping her.

I have had tremendous support from the team on and off the field, and we have faith in one another’s abilities. I can’t wait to share the invaluable information I have learned with my USA teammates going forward. I am glad I can contribute well to my TKR team, and I’m hoping that this hat trick is only the beginning of many records I’ll set in the future.

Considering that Ali Khan of the USA plays for TKR, is there any extra significance to you to be playing with this franchise? 

Geetika – When I learned that I was playing for TKR, I was ecstatic! I was aware that Ali Khan was a member of the Knight Rider family, and I recalled wondering when a similar opportunity might present itself to women in the USA. I was thrilled because I admired that the TKR brand was scouting for talent from all over the world, and watching Ali Khan perform made me incredibly happy. The Knight Rider family deserves all the credit for their brand image and player support system.  The TKR family has been extraordinarily welcoming and supportive of me during the 6ixty, and I have no doubt they will do the same for any event where I represent them. I hope to make them proud, and I am honored to join the family.

The USA Women’s pathway has been one of the highlights of USA Cricket over the past two years. It turns out that it has coincided quite nicely with the rise of women’s franchise cricket (Fairbreak, 6ixty, CPL). What does it feel like to be involved in cricket right now, as a young American woman, compared to just a few years ago? 

Geetika – It is an excellent time to get involved with cricket in the US. The sport of cricket is currently receiving a lot of attention and funding, and both men and women have several opportunities opening up. I’m grateful to benefit from everyone who represented the nation before me and battled for these chances to support the next generation. I hope this will encourage a lot more girls to start playing cricket, and they will also have the chance to play franchise cricket in the future.  The USA women’s pathway has provided the female cricketers in the country with many stages in which they could showcase their talents. It has also provided more opportunities for the national pool to play with one another. The pathway has done wonders in developing female cricket in the USA despite the geographical barriers that do not allow players to train as one team.  We become more unified as a response, and we all work to improve daily. Every year, a large number of players join at various ages. Numerous local academies, franchises, coaches, and other resources are in place.

The Fairbreak tournament was extraordinarily beneficial and a great benchmark to see where I stand amongst the other internationals. At Fairbreak, I received a lot of encouragement from the players and management, and I felt quite confident playing against players from other countries, both associate and full member nations. I gained more understanding of my batting, bowling, and fielding areas of improvement and have been working hard. Since then, we’ve regularly participated in more USA and CWI-based tournaments throughout the summer, dramatically improving our performance. The partnership has benefited the development of cricket in the US, and I’m sure it will continue to take this sport to the next level. We must pass on these learnings to other players and continue to have frequent training and games. We’ll strengthen as a team and support the rapid advancement of numerous talented youngsters.

How do you rank your home community (Morrisville, North Carolina) in terms of cricket in the USA, and what does this community mean to you? 

Geetika – The triangle cricket community is one of the best communities in the USA. Both men’s and women’s cricket have tremendous support, and cricket is becoming more and more popular. Just last week, the MLC Finals took place at Church Street Park for the second time in a row, and that shows how much support cricketers get out there. After my game in St. Kitts, I watched the live stream and saw how packed the ground was. The cricket community was the main reason I moved to North Carolina from California.

I was fortunate to learn from Coach Alvin Kallicharran and the TCL coaches. For the past year, I have been training intensely with Coach Rohaan Gosala, and I am improving everyday. He examined my current areas of improvement and developed a comprehensive plan for batting and bowling advancements. The training has significantly improved both my skill and confidence. Both a matting and turf pitch are accessible and nearby in North Carolina. The support of the cricket community and school district lured me across the country. I can concentrate on the game every day without the stress of the long commutes in California.

Although all of the teachers in California’s schools were very encouraging, students who missed class because of national or international competitions would have their absences marked as unexcused. When students returned to school the following day, they had to turn in their missed days’ worth of homework. However, my high school in Cary, North Carolina, Green Level High School, recognized my absences as additional educational opportunities and excused them. In addition, after I got back from tours, I had extra time to turn in my schoolwork. The teachers were accommodating and administered my tests through one on ones either during lunch or after school. My peers and friends were there to support me daily as well. Baseball, tennis, basketball, volleyball, and other sports are also popular in RTP, in addition to cricket. There is outstanding recognition for sports in addition to academics. 

The cricket community is everything I could ever ask for. There is never a weekend where I have to search for matches, and there is never a time when I need to practice alone as everyone goes out of their way to help the other cricketers and me in North Carolina.

I am so grateful for the cricket community I get to represent every time I step on the field, and I hope I can make them proud.

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