Australia’s summer of cricket is no longer a sterile prospect with the women’s Test matches off to a start in Brisbane. Elsewhere in the UAE, the IPL is on full throttle. And for one young girl in a Sydney suburb, the excitement is palpable. An all-rounder at the age of nine, Kaya Kumar is a budding but promising cricketer who is following these games avidly.
Few months ago, Kaya’s father Rajesh Kumar posted a video of her practicing in their backyard on his LinkedIn account. The post garnered nearly 50,000 views with many including former Australian international cricketer Ian Healy commenting on why Kaya would love her cricket.
“Hitting it like that!!! Unreal. Your local club will be on the NSW Cricket website but it seems you’ve found the pathway, then all there is to do is perform. Make runs or stay in when needed and take wickets with a technique that translates into her late teen years. By then she’ll be flying,” Healy posted.
Others have commented, “She has excellent hand to eye and for one so young she has an abundance of natural ability”. And yet some others have in zest remarked, “Wasted far too much time watching this on repeat 🙂 Can’t believe someone so young can have such clean foot work, timing, hand-eye coordination; and that leading with the left hand. Amazing. Hope she enjoys the game and learns lots. Does the high back-left and sideon release cause problems with heavy out-swingers moving away? Enjoy!”
The positive feedbacks have been pouring in. Rajesh, who has been overwhelmed by these compliments, also sees his daughter as somewhat of a standout talent having seen her progress so much in a year. She has the natural developments and a passion that is bound to keep on growing, he believes.
A Year four student of Bella Vista public School in Sydney, Kaya took to cricket after watching her brother, who is older to her, play the game. It caught on instantly and became as much a part of her routine as her brother’s. Kaya started playing to become an all-rounder enjoying both batting and bowling.
Kaya’s first break was getting into the U11 boys’ team where she and her friend were the only two girls in the team. Before she realised, her coach at the end of the season asked her to move up and go under level 12.
Currently, Kaya plays three different games – U11 boys at club level, U13 girls in rep (for the Penrith district), and U15 in the Thunder Girls competition.
As one of the toppers among the U11 boys’ team, she got ‘man of the match’ twice as also the coach’s award. In U15, Kaya is the number 2 batsman and is generally known to be one of the highest run getters among all the categories. “My highest run was actually in U15, I did 25 runs out of 30 balls and not out,” she says with a smile.
“She’s a leggie who can bowl good wronguns/wrong ones and also score some decent runs too,” says Rajesh. In the game of cricket, a googly, or “wrong’un”, is a delivery which looks like a normal leg-spinner but actually turns towards the batsmen, like an off-break, rather than away from the bat.
Though small, Kaya does not lack for power and usually likes to face fast bowlers. “Because against a fast bowl, if you just touch the ball, it goes hard,” she says, modestly adding, “I feel I am better than the boys. For most of them, it’s their first time and they don’t know how to play cricket yet. Of course, by the end of the season we get better as a team with the coach’s training.” Last season, the U11 boys team, of which Kaya is a part, beat the top team in the whole competition.
Asked how she has developed that fearlessness, Rajesh says she just doesn’t care. “She is a hard hitter, her brother, who is 13 years old, tests her, not me.”
Although Kaya rues the fact that because of the pandemic much of her training and playing has been affected, she still tries to maintain a routine training at a pitch that her father has set up at their home. She tries as hard to make up for the lack of training by practising every weekend at the nets in the ground which, thankfully, is still open. She also runs six km every day and sometimes 10 km as well, says Rajesh.
Kaya is aware that as she grows older, her responsibilities too will grow. But more than being scared, she is excited about the future because, “I can get to play faster bowlers and experience the different types of bowling”.
In the eyes of her father, she is no less than a dare devil.
Kaya also plays basketball with equal tenacity and is part of the basketball rep team, which is the district level team. In that sense, she has acquired skills that complement both sports.
This year’s cricket season is about to open up and Kaya is pepped up about the prospects of going to the zone trials. This is where the school picks up a zone team and that eventually leads to one becoming a state team member.
“I think I will become a better cricketer than my brother,” she says. Both siblings play opening, they both go as runners and they both bowl leg spins.
The crowd they play for also seem to have embraced them in earnest providing her the mental environment to grow. “Sometimes they scream too loud, and it affects my concentration, but I do like playing before a crowd.”
Kaya dreams of a professional future in cricket. Virat Kohli is her favourite batsman and Shane Warne her favourite bowler. “I want to play for Australia,” she says.
Living in a sports-mad nation like Australia, it is a dream that Kaya can hope to realise!
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