We recently caught up with one of USA cricket’s exciting young talents, the threatening pace-bowler and powerful batter Geetika Kodali; on her experience representing her country so far, how she balances elite sport with school and what her family’s support means to her. Stay tuned for some insights from the 16 year old on her cricketing journey and who’s humility and maturity is clearly showcased throughout.
"I personally look at failures or setbacks as something that is a learning opportunity. So, at this point, I would be grateful for any experience, whether it is a success or not, because it's something that would help me develop in the end."
When did you start playing cricket?
I started playing cricket when I was 11 years old, so about 5 years now. I actually played various sports such as basketball, soccer and tennis. My parents always encouraged me to try and play new sports. One day, we were selling my childhood home and I was visiting my childhood friend who lived in that neighbourhood and I found out that he had 'cricket practice'. Until then, I had no idea that there was professional cricket in the U.S. I was just playing in the backyard with friends and family whenever they came over. So, I went to practice with him, being addicted to sports as I was. I don't know if it was the coaches compliments about my hand-eye coordination, but I joined the academy with him and I started playing from there.
Can you describe your journey to the senior national squad?
I was mainly playing locally, with the exception of the annual 'girls cricket league' tournament and 'national youth cricket league' (two tournaments run locally by independent organizations). In December 2018, I got an email inviting me to try out for the USA national squad. I got invited to Florida along with Lisa Ramjit and Alicia Fernando and we were all 14 at the time. From there we had camps and selection processes, from which the squad got narrowed down to 14 players and 4 reserves. It all went by really fast, but was a lot of hard work.
What is your favourite cricketing moment to-date?
It was during the 'girls cricket league' tournament in 2018 before I got called up to try out for the national squad. It was an amazing experience, seeing girls from all over the country, who I had no idea were playing cricket. They all came, and we met, and we had 2 full teams! That's something that was mind-blowing to me as I thought I was one of the only girls playing in the country. It was just amazing to see everyone play together and I made a lot of great memories and friendships from that.
"I think it prepares me for life in general...Learning about cultures and the history of other countries in school is nothing compared to going out and actually having a scavenger hunt in London or visiting places in Australia."
What do you love the most about the game and playing in a team sport?
The thing I love the most is probably how much I learn from it. Cricket teaches you a lot of things, whether it is learning how to do something more efficiently or the mechanics of playing a new shot. Also learning about teamwork and accountability. I think it prepares me for life in general and gives me a lot of new experiences. Learning about cultures and the history of other countries in school is nothing compared to going out and actually having a scavenger hunt in London or visiting places in Australia. There's always friendly competition (between me and my friends) on who can score higher on the yo-yo test, who can bowl faster and who can score more runs, but that's what keeps us going in the end. That's what pushes us harder to achieve our goals faster. There's no such things as 'friends' on the field, there's only teammates. But off the field, we are all friends and there's no hardships between us.
How do you balance school-work with cricket commitments?
My teachers are very supportive and give me the flexibility to play cricket and turn in my work in a timely manner. If I ask before, they normally give me extensions. I also get a lot of help from friends and family. There's a lot of late nights when my mom stays up next to me while I finish my work. My parents and I decided that though cricket is a major part of my life, I don't want to dip off in the education side of things. I want to maintain my grades while I play cricket, so It's definitely a lot of work, but I have support and I'm truly grateful for that.
What skills do you feel you have gained from this?
Definitely, a lot of time-management. I also found out a lot about myself. I developed a routine where I have designated times where I can focus on tasks and I have times where I can multitask on certain things. But figuring out those things about myself, like what helps me focus and what helps me finish work efficiently, is definitely something that (balancing) sport taught me.
"I just took a minute to take it all in and I bowled the first ball, and the ball bounced to a whole new height. I didn't have to put effort into it, I didn't have to hit the pitch, it just opened up a whole new realm of possibilities and it felt like new conditions that I had to adapt to"
What does a typical week look like during the cricket season?
A typical week would be 3 conditioning sessions, 3 strength sessions and double league games during the weekend, which would alternate between T20 and 40-over games. Over the course of the week, I would have 2 or 3 practice sessions with either the adult (men's) league or with other girls in my area (as a part of the satellite coaching sessions). Regularly playing with the men helps us grind harder and improve our game faster to keep up with them.
How was your experience so-far being in a high-performance environment at such a young age?
I would say my experience has been pretty amazing. I never realised how shielded from the rest of the world I was. Playing with people from different age-groups has taught me a lot. I always end up learning new things at camps, whether it be cricket, jobs or even stocks (which I still don't know much about). There's also seniors that can guide me on the team, who are people I look up to and who help me out with my game and development.
Were there any challenges you had to overcome both cricketing and school-wise?
Well, every athlete has to make a lot of sacrifices, whether it's sport, work, school, family and social life. But I wouldn't say there were any major challenges I've had other than dealing with injuries, which is something I'm looking to strengthen myself up to reduce. I personally look at failures or setbacks as something that is a learning opportunity. So, at this point, I would be grateful for any experience, whether it is success or not, because it's something that would help me develop in the end.
"Cricket is a mind game. It's basically played physical and mental and staying calm is one of the best things you could do "
Can you please talk us through your experience with Fairbreak Global, during the inaugural New South Wales, Australia tour and Bradman game?
Fairbreak was a very enlightening experience for me. It was an amazing opportunity as I got to play on turf pitches in Australia, which are very different from the ones we have in the U.S. One of my favourite moments was probably at a team practice session before our Bradman game and I was bowling to Sana Mir, who is someone I look up to a lot. I just took a minute to take it all in and I bowled the first ball, and the ball bounced to a whole new height. I didn't have to put effort into it, I didn't have to hit the pitch, it just opened up a whole new realm of possibilities and it felt like new conditions that I had to adapt to. It was a whole new experience.
What did you learn from this opportunity?
I learned a lot, there was a lot more strategies to learn, it was really nice interacting with new players. Definitely, a new aspect of teamwork, because we all met (for the first time) and we were all players from different countries and I had no idea who anyone was or what they did. We had a limited amount of time to get to know each other and perform well as a team, so I think that's something I'm going to take in to the future. The environment that the captain brings is important. In this way, I think Sana Mir did a really good job of encouraging us and making sure that as long as we were putting our 100% into the game (that's all she asked of us), which made the environment very relaxed. As my mom and all my coaches always told me, cricket is a mind game; it's basically played physical and mental and staying calm is one of the best things you could do.
What sacrifices have your family made to help you pursue cricket at a high level while being in school?
They've made a lot of sacrifices. We actually moved to North Carolina from California after living there for 15 years. Cricket was actually a major factor in our move, in addition to school as the school system here (North Carolina) is a lot more supportive of me attending cricket camps. They moved all the way across the country just for me pursuing cricket, which is something I'm really grateful for.
"Their support means the world to me.. I think they are also proud seeing me accomplish many things because they know they play a key role in those accomplishments "
How do they feel seeing you accomplish what you have and what does their support mean to you?
Their support means the world to me. I would never be where I am right now without them. They didn't just drive me to practice and games, they were also there for me emotionally and they always try and help me out whenever possible to reach my goals. I think they are also proud seeing me accomplish many things because they know they play a key role in those accomplishments.
Do your family and friends help keep you grounded and not get swept away by your achievements at a young age, or are you naturally quite level-headed?
I would say I'm naturally quite level headed, but it doesn't feel very level-headed to say that. I have had a couple of achievements at a young age, but there's always new goals I'm working towards and they are always encouraging me (to pursue them) while keeping me grounded. There's always friendly competition (between me and my friends) and I know I'm definitely not the best at everything, so there's always something new to work towards.
What other hobbies/pastimes do you have?
Outside of cricket, my hobbies would definitely be spending time with my family and friends. I actually like playing sports in general, whether it's volleyball with my friends or ping pong with my dad. I also like watching TV shows and other sports. I watch American football occasionally and I also like eating food (who doesn't). FYI, Geetika's favourite shows are Grey's Anatomy, The Flash, Supergirl and Manifest among many others. She also likes watching inspirational sports documentaries such as 'The Record' on Amazon Prime.
"There's no end goal. You're always going to have to set new goals and motivate yourself while making sure you're not burning out"
What is your funniest off-field moment?
There's definitely a lot of funny moments off the field. I'm a very clumsy person and I can't blame it on my growth spurt for long. This is a not an off-field moment per se, but we were in England having practice matches before our Global Qualifiers in Scotland and I was batting out in the middle. The first ball (that came to me), I played a classic defense and the second ball, I don't know what came over me, but I just hit the ball over mid-on for a four and I was just looking at the ball because I didn't know how I did it and ended up tripping over in the middle of the pitch! Everyone on my team started laughing and even I started laughing because everything happened so fast, I just tripped and I thought wow, I can hit the ball!
What is your advice for young aspiring sportswomen like yourself?
There's actually a lot of sayings that keep me motivated. Definitely the first one would be hard work pays off; the results you see in your game are definitely corresponding to how much effort and time you put into practice. Another one is that there's no end goal. You're always going to have to set new goals and motivate yourself, while making sure you're not burning out. I'm pretty sure that's what athletes do in general, because setting goals is a big part of playing sports.