Chennai girl plays cricket for Team USA

Chennai: Little did she know that when she gave up the sport she dearly loved - cricket - giving up her dream to represent her home country that her prayers would be answered a few years later when Sugetha K Chandhrasekar took the field to represent the Red, Blue and White at a World Cup Qualifiers in Scotland.

Sugetha was born 1991 to Sekhar K Ch and Hemalatha Ramamoorthy in Tirupattur. Though born in a small town, Sugetha grew up in Chennai where she went to DAV School. Sugetha vividly recalls how she used to be the only girl playing cricket with boys which often included her brother Rishab. She has been responsible for a few shards of glasses broken and perspiring neighbours as to what this girl might do next.

Her gimmicks did not stop at home, she inspired her classmates to bunk classes and go play inter-school cricket tournament. Little did Suge (as she is fondly called by many) know that a Tamilnadu State women’s selector would be watching this little 16-year-old hit the ball to all parts of the cricket ground.

Sugetha was fast tracked to the State U-19 team for her talent. Her father, seeing her talent, enrolled her in a formal cricket coaching camp to hone her skills.

Sugetha represented the Tamilnadu U-19 team for two seasons, playing with and against the best cricketers like the Indian opening batswomen Thirushkamini, fast bowler Niranjana, hard-hitting middle order World cup finalist Veda Krishnamoorthy, to name a few. Sugetha recalls being very proud to have played with and against the best in the country.

Her journey in cricket, even though blossoming, was cut short as she decided to pursue education over cricket - cricket back in late 2000 was not a financially viable life choice. Suge recalls that the decision was a heart-wrenching one that she had to take early in life.

Sugetha completed her Bachelors in Computer Science at SRM Valliammai Engineering College, and subsequently pursued a masters in Computer Science at Clemson University, South Carolina, USA. She believed that she had left behind her former athlete life when she took a job with Arista Networks as a software developer.

As it turns out, cricket was not too far away as she thought it would be when she married a cricketer. Srinivas Raghavan, her husband, had represented Tamilnadu City U-22 before migrating to the United States. Her husband is currently a 30 man, Team USA squad member.

Her husband inspired her to take up the sport again. Neither her husband nor Sugetha had any expectations to play at the highest level, but were playing cricket for the love of the game.

On a sunny southern California day, Suge decided to go watch her husband play a club game. While watching the game, Sugetha learnt that there was a Women's Combines happening at San Francisco that weekend. Combines are a selection meet where all cricketers from that region are evaluated for fitness and cricketing skills. Suge immediately booked a ticket for the 300 mile flight to the northern part of California. Like the famous saying, a small step is a giant leap for mankind. This small step was the first of the many achievements that followed.

Sugetha on the field.

Sugetha made it to the final USA 15-member squad, after the six regional combines across the entire country. Team USA were supposed to play the historic first ever game against the famous MCC cricket club from United Kingdom.

MCC had two former legendary England women cricketers, Claire Taylor and Charlotte Edwards. In the game, Suge got an opportunity to bowl to Charlotte Edwards. Suge recalls, "To bowl and bowl well to one of the best ever woman cricketer in the World gave me so much confidence and made me believe that I belong to this level." Suge, got Charlotte run out.

Identifying her talent, the caretaker organisation for cricket in USA, ICC Americas, invited Sugetha as one of the top six athletes in the country to train with some notable coaches from Cricket Australia including former Australian Test Cricketer Beau Casson and former Tasmanian cricketer / now coach Richard Allanby.

The camp translated into performance for Sugetha as she followed this up by scoring her first 50 in the United States for CanAm Cricket Club, won woman of the match for JaJa Jaguars at the Canada Day Cup and picked eight wickets bowling leg spin in a trial organised by ICC Americas in Indianapolis for the World T20 qualifiers.

Sugetha was subsequently named to tour Scotland for the World T20 qualifiers which was marred by rain. Team USA were not able to qualify despite a valiant effort against the host Scotland and touring Netherlands. She also was part of a development Team USA squad to tour Australia. There she played all six games and did well against Australian State sides.

Sugetha credits all her achievements to her coach Shriram Renkenathan (NCA Level A coach in India) who runs SSCA cricket academy. She also credits USA national coaches Pubbudu Dasanayakke and Anand Tummula.

Suge says she has a long, long way to go and a lot more to achieve in future qualifiers and make strong contributions to Team USA.


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