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By Manal Dossani

On a challenge from her dad during the pandemic, Jivana Aras found herself immersed completely in a sport she was a stranger to just three years ago. The bowler can thank her father for not only introducing her to the sport, but making her into the player she is today.

“My dad was like ‘Oh this could be fun, it could be something new you can do,’ and we started from there,” Aras said. “From there, I learned a new skill every week. One week we did bowling, another we did batting, and another we did fielding. That’s kind of how I got introduced to cricket.”

Prior to the challenge, Aras wasn’t familiar with cricket at all. She played other sports like soccer and karate growing up, but cricket was something she didn’t know of until 2020.

The all-rounder from Bellevue, Washington started her cricket journey through talent camps and scouting sessions. Several camps and sessions later, she was invited to be a part of the under 19 training group, and earlier this year she made her debut for the women’s national team.

Within a mere three years of playing cricket, Aras caught the eyes of FairBreak Global – a social enterprise with a mission of creating opportunities that progress gender equality on a truly global scale, using cricket as their primary vehicle. To date, she has participated in a development tournament in Australia, and played for the Sapphires franchise team in the Fairbreak 2023 Invitational in Hong Kong, where she took the wicket of formidable international women’s star, Laura Wolvaardt.

Aras is currently playing for the Sydney Cricket Club and training with the New South Wales (NSW) Premier League in Australia. Her commitment to the sport remains intact as she tackles both her classes and cricket, on the other side of the world.

“Having the opportunity to come play in Australia has allowed me to experience the competitiveness and facilities that they have here,” Aras said. “I’m improving a lot, like my fielding and batting is coming along decently and I’m working on as many aspects of my game that I can.”

Areas Aras has been focusing on to improve are; releasing the ball quickly when fielding, gaining confidence in catching and diving, batting, strength and conditioning. With batting, specifically, Aras has been working on more effective decision making and shot selections.

Playing on the other side of the world can come with its challenges – and Jivana is no stranger to that.

“I’ve been so used to playing on concrete, so pitch-wise, it’s been kind of a challenge,” Aras said. “But, everyone here has been very helpful and caring when it comes to me working on adjusting to the different playing conditions.”

Not only that, but the competition level is also very different from what she’s used to back in the USA. Many of her fellow teammates at Sydney Cricket Club have played at a high level, or have participated in the Women’s Big Bash League. The Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) is a professional T20 competition played annually in October/November. The tournament features 8 city-wide teams made up of current and former Australian national team members, the country’s best young talent, and up to three overseas marquee players.

Jivana Aras with Ellyse Perry at a WBBL match

When playing club-level cricket at home, Jivana plays mostly with men. In Australia, she’s playing with women, which has provided her with a different feel and environment which has been equally beneficial for her as the women are more supportive and provide a different “vibe,” she said.

Jivana trains on Tuesdays and Fridays with the NSW Premier League and Wednesdays with the Sydney Cricket Club, where she finds the training sessions dramatically different from her sessions back home in Seattle.

“Back home, I mostly only do nets,” Aras said. “Over here, I’m able to do nets and get a good amount of fielding done in a positive, competitive environment. The biggest thing is that I’m playing with a team of girls.”

Aras said the facilities in Sydney have been amazing and that it has been an absolute joy to train at NSW Cricket Central, which is a building that has indoor nets, a cricket field, a gym, meeting rooms, kitchens, physio rooms and more. At the Sydney Cricket Club, they have locker rooms, a pavilion, a field, turf nets, and a small gym.

“I have been truly blessed to be able to train at these great quality facilities. Both of them are very well taken care of,” Aras said.

The Sydney team’s average age is 21 with the majority of the girls being under 21. The experience level between the team ranges from girls who have played since they were young kids to more senior players who have played in the WBBL or represented the NSW Breakers team.

In Australia, Aras has played with and against several well-known players, including Sammy-Jo Johnson, Olivia Porter, Maitlan Brown, and Kate Pelle. Johnson and Porter both play for Sydney Thunder, and Brown and Pelle play for the Sydney Sixers.

Being a USA national player can come with its difficulties – pressure and high expectations, and for Jivana, most of that is self-driven. Navigating through expectations and pressure from herself is something Aras says her father helps her through with pep talks and words of wisdom before games.

“He definitely is a huge support system to me,” Aras said. “He’s always been my coach growing up, and has always been my rock. He always knows when something is up or if I’m doing something different and always knows how to help me.”

Along with her dad, Aras also thanks the academies in Washington, who have been supportive of her and helped her grow as a player in many different ways. She also thanks her national team, USA Cricket, for helping her and giving her opportunities to improve her skills and to travel around the world to play.

When asked about her future aspirations, it’s safe to say that Jivana has high expectations for herself. Not only does she want to start playing professionally, but also wants to play at the 2028 LA Summer Olympics, since cricket was officially added as an Olympic sport. Along with that, her ultimate goal is to help young girls reach the professional level in cricket and help evolve women and girls’ cricket in the USA.

“I would like to see more younger girls coming through and trying out,” Aras said. “Overall, I just want cricket to be big here. More teams, more tournaments, especially professional tournaments. That would be great.”

Coming back from Australia, Aras hopes she can come back with valuable lessons she learned during her time there to pass onto others.

“Staying positive and not overthinking the game is a big one,” Aras said. “Decision making is the hardest part of the game, but it’s also what makes it fun and interesting.”

Aras hopes her journey into cricket can inspire others into trying out something new and making it their own.

“Having good facilities, experienced coaches, and supportive staff are important, but players must be driven to succeed. You could have the best resources, but if you don’t want to improve, you won’t. You have to want to improve even the slightest to see a difference.

“Everyone has the ability to do something. You just need to believe in yourself and do it.”

 

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