USA Cricket resumed their nationwide women’s talent ID events in North Carolina last weekend. After initially starting this past winter, the events were suspended just before a scheduled date in North Carolina in mid March, due to Covid-19. Leading up to the rescheduled NC date, cricketers from hours away could be found preparing regularly at Raleigh’s indoor training centre, Friends Pavilion, where events finally unfolded on Saturday, September 26.
Roughly 40 hopeful participants ranging in age from 12 to 45 bowled, batted and fielded in front of evaluators from 9am until 6:30pm in Raleigh. Participants arrived from Michigan, Missouri, Georgia, and all over North Carolina. The local Triangle Cricket League has seen their women’s league grow quickly.
“Three years back, we started with a group of 35 ladies, including some 8, 9, 10-year-old girls who joined with their moms to start playing cricket,” Friends Pavilion owner Asia Sheikh told Emerging Cricket. “It started with a lot of effort and enthusiasm from ex-state and national team players. Eventually, today, as we landmark, we have girls playing with men’s teams and boys’ teams and excelling day in and day out. Women now have a leather ball travel team who are travelling across different bilateral tournaments.”
The Raleigh area is home to emerging USA fast bowler Geetika Kodali, and national team attention is a priority to local cricketers like Asia and other TCL women. “We want to build a competitive team at our state level and help NC leave a strong mark on the USA Women’s Cricket storyline.”
With participants travelling across states to compete in the midst of the pandemic, health and safety were a priority for Sheik. “We blocked the whole facility for USA cricket to ensure full COVID social distance protocol. A very strict COVID-19 protocol was followed throughout the event. Every step was monitored and executed by USA Cricket with great scrutiny.”
Although USA Women haven’t played in over a year, coach Julia Price seems optimistic with the direction of the program and with the future of cricket in the country in general. Recently in an interview posted on ICC-cricket.com, Price remarked “I really like the way we’re working in America at the moment, the fact that they’re actually taking ideas from the female program into the men’s program. It’s really a different way of looking at things. I’m not sure if that’s American, or just the way it’s evolved.”
USA Cricket’s CEO Iain Higgins responded to Emerging Cricket’s request for a statement on the women’s Talent ID events, as well as the future of USA Women’s cricket.
USA Cricket recognizes that women and girls currently make up a very small part of the cricket-playing population in this country. But there is a sharply increasing level of interest and popularity in women’s sport in the USA and women’s cricket around the world and USA Cricket is committing to driving that movement forward by supporting a more equitable gender balance and level of engagement across all aspects of cricket in this country. Not only can we help to shape positive change in society by making this a strategic focus area, but it also represents the biggest immediate opportunity that we have to grow the game here.
To that end, USA Cricket will soon be launching its Foundational Plan for the sport over the next 3 years and in which there will be a clear focus on women and girls. And, through the recently established Women & Girls Committee, we have already made significant progress towards the development of a plan and set of initiatives which can help create the environment and opportunities to be able to grow female involvement at all levels of the sport. Quite apart from the obvious objective of putting the most talented female cricketers in front of USA Cricket selectors and officials, the talent IDs are an extremely important part of being able to understand the prevailing landscape in terms of the overall depth of talent and participation levels in this country. Once we have a clear perspective on that, I am quite sure that one of the initiatives in the overall plan will be to create a suitable domestic structure that supports the existing players and encourages new players to pick up a bat and ball by offering more competitive cricketing opportunities as part of a structured pathway for women and girls cricket.
Obviously we are all disappointed that COVID-19 has prevented the planned completion of these talent ID events earlier this year, but we are delighted to be able to restart the process as an absolute priority for the organization as soon as it was safe to be able to do so.
The next stop on the USA Women’s Talent ID tour is Plano, Texas on October 11, 2020.
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