By Yashaaditi Teki and Simran Bhogle
Boom! The batter strikes the ball and the sound echoes fiercely through the field. The audience cheers as the batter scores the final point and all her teammates come rushing in.
What sport would the average sports fan think of? Was it softball, the popular American sport, or cricket, the game more commonly played in other areas of the world?
Both answers are correct. As seen in their use of bat and ball, skills involving catching and fielding, and the drive to score points, both sports contain many similarities.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking they are the same! They both captivate the attention of audiences in different ways.
The game of softball: common to almost every high school in America. Played in a field that is in the shape of a diamond, it takes course over seven innings. Within each inning, the home and away teams each get a chance to bat and pitch. Each batter receives three chances to hit the ball, or else they have struck out and must go back into the dugout. The winning team scores more points than the other; a point is scored when the batter runs through all bases and reaches the home plate without getting out (1).
On the other hand, cricket is not as common of a sport in the US. While there are many different formats of the game, the T20 format is the shortest format recognized by the International Cricket Council. Rather than seven innings, there are two: one team bats in the first innings and then bowls in the second innings, and vice versa for the other team. The batters play in pairs and run between wickets on a pitch rather than through bases; a run is scored when the batters make it to the other side of the pitch without getting out. However, batters only get one chance; if they get out once, they have to return to the dugout immediately. The winning team is the one that scored more runs (2).
Clearly, both sports are not the same. Yet, one could understand how cricket should reach a popularity level similar to softball in the United States because of their structural similarities. Americans are missing out on a sport that has the ability to shine in their stadiums and television screens. Who knows, cricket could be the next Friday night football that keeps people glued to their seats.
But what does the transition from softball to cricket look like? Adjusting to the various formats and rules of cricket may be difficult at first, but luckily there are pioneers who have walked this path, putting softball players’ minds at ease when considering the transition.
Sandra Ibarra, is the first American female athlete who picked up cricket after coming from a multi-sport background, including softball. Ibarra made the USA women’s national team when it was first established in 2009. Erica Rendler followed in 2010, as the second American-convert with a background in softball and field hockey. Rendler enjoyed a cricket career which spanned almost a decade.
Recently, USA Cricket announced plans to pilot “Softball Sisters” – a program intended for softball players to cross over into cricket. Softball players may hesitate to try a new sport for several reasons including the new sport impacting their technique and general uncertainty.surrounding adopting a new sport. Yet, cricket players Snigdha Paul, Brooke Shears, and Ritu Singh have accomplished amazing feats in both softball and cricket.
These players’ insights allow potential softball players considering transferring to cricket, to better understand what the transition may look like, as well as what they should expect.
Brooke Shears, a promising cricketer from Michigan, began playing cricket after “watching and following a whole season of the IPL (Indian Premier League).” Guided by her curiosity for the sport, she stumbled upon local clubs in East Michigan that were heavily involved in cricket, and gained a new passion for the sport of cricket.
Senior and under 19 USA national player, Ritu Singh, tells us “due to the similarities between the sports, it was an easy transition from cricket to softball.” Some of the skills she applies to cricket include using her “hips to get more power” and general “fielding techniques.”
In the recent ICC World Cup Americas Qualifier in Los Angeles, Singh played an explosive innings, hitting 37 runs off 16 balls. Her power is no surprise given that outside of her cricket and softball practices and games, Singh is also a gymnast, competing in the trampoline, double mini and floor events.
Those massive sixes Singh hits across the stadium find their origins in her softball experience. Softball players are great hitters of the ball and should find it quite comfortable doing the same in cricket. Having the same basic skills of striking the ball, throwing and fielding should give softball players more confidence moving into cricket, and a headstart on other athletes picking up the sport.
Ritu Singh in her batting stance for softball and cricket
Shears’ love and determination for the game has driven her to find ways to manage her time around the sport as she mentions that, “if you really love to do something, you always figure out how to make time for it.” She has been enjoying her journey in this path, traveling to various states and countries for games and training, meeting new people who also share the same love and passion for the game, and overall expanding her knowledge of cricket.
Ritu Singh explains a similar idea to Brooke regarding time management. “I love to stay active and doing the things I love can’t be too hard.”
Both of these athletes take on the challenges that come with juggling many activities in order to pursue the moments that bring them joy.
Senior and under 19 USA national player, Snigdha Paul, a cricketer and softball player from Texas, picked up softball during freshman year of high school to add an extracurricular activity under her belt after cricket.
Paul recollects, “after getting to experience the women’s world cup warm-up match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at the age of 9, I became fascinated with cricket. The game intrigued me and I have been playing it ever since.”
Paul mentioned that, “softball and cricket go hand in hand in the matter of mental and physical development as both sports are ball games, a lot of the ideas and philosophies overlap, making it easier to understand.”
Snigdha Paul looking to play in the gap at the ICC U19 Women’s T20 World Cup for USA & at her local high school game in Dallas, Texas
Her impressive skills displayed in both cricket and softball landed her a feature in the Dallas News. “It was quite shocking as I wasn’t expecting to be featured. I first heard it from my softball head coach, Candice Jackson, that the Dallas News wanted to cover my involvement in both softball and cricket.”
Even though they all enjoy multiple sports, they all feel that cricket is more than just a game; it is a source of immense happiness. Brooke Shears’s favorite skill to practice is batting, as she “enjoys the sound of the ball hitting the middle part (the sweet spot) of the bat which makes a nice satisfying sound that tells you that you’ve put power into the shot and with the right timing!”
When cricketers dedicate time and passion to their sport, it gifts them with special moments like these.
Softball Sisters, or anyone thinking about considering cricket to be a sport in their lives, consider Singh’s attitude towards the sport. Despite all of her experience in softball and gymnastics, she tells us, “Cricket is my favorite, it’s always been my first love.”