Lisa Ramjit can remember walking into the family room and noticing her father had turned on the television to a channel broadcasting a cricket or tennis match.
“It was always on,” she recalled. “I was never really interested in watching the games.”
Now 14, Ramjit — an eighth-grader at Northwest Middle School in Taneytown — has turned her father’s passion into her personal pursuit. Ramjit has developed into a top-level talent and became the first Maryland junior selected to play for the United States national women’s cricket team.
On May 17, Ramjit opened as Team USA’s bowler (cricket’s version of a pitcher in baseball) against Canada and took the first international T20 wicket in the team’s cricket history. A wicket is a set of three stumps that has a small stick, called a bail, sitting on top. The goal of a bowler is to take a wicket, which is being defended by a batsman, by knocking the bail off the stumps.
Ramjit eventually won her start, igniting the Americans’ three-game sweep of their northern neighbors in Lauderhill, Fla., and helping the team move one step closer to securing a berth in the 2020 International Cricket Council women’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
Ramjit said she did not anticipate achieving this level of success at such an early age.
“As you go through the process, you’re just like, ‘OK, this is a game for me to enjoy,’ ” she said. “And then as I started to go to the competitive level, I tried to grow from there and get better and try to do the best I can. So, to be able to represent the country at this age, it is surreal. It’s a feeling of all that you’ve done since you were younger has paid off. It is amazing.”
Ramjit initially grew up in Bowie, dabbling in ballet and softball — the latter of which she particularly enjoyed as a batter and playing first base. When her mother, Liloutie, signed up her then-11-year-old son, Devin, for a cricket program offered by the Bowie Boys & Girls Club, she also signed up her daughter, who was 7 at the time.
Cricket has been a lifelong ambition within the Ramjit family. Liloutie and her husband, Satnarine, played the sport in Guyana, where Liloutie said children learn how to hit a ball with a stick “as soon as kids can walk.” They are also of Indian descent, and cricket is India’s most popular sport. So, it was enjoyable for Liloutie to see one of her three children — Lisa, Devin (now serving in the Army) and Ravin Chad (a 7-year-old in elementary school) — take to cricket.
“Cricket is a beautiful sport,” Liloutie said. “No special skills or size or anything is required. It’s just a game that anybody can play and enjoy. So, I knew that when Coach Sham [Chotoo] said he was starting a cricket team, I was going to sign up Lisa. It had nothing to do with softball, but I knew that Lisa would be able to play cricket for a longer time.”
Chotoo, who started the Bowie cricket program in the summer of 2012, said Lisa Ramjit initially struck him as a quiet child who was more comfortable observing than speaking. She had even been nicknamed “Doll” by a family friend because of her ability to stay still and stare without blinking for long periods of time.
But Chotoo said he caught a glimpse of her potential when he arrived early for a practice at a school in Bowie.
“She was there early with her mom and dad and brother, and I saw her practicing her bowling and she was running up and bowling the ball really well,” Chotoo recalled. “She was bowling to her brother, and I was kind of amazed because I didn’t really teach the kids at that time how to run up and bowl the ball. But she was doing it, and she was doing it pretty good back then when she was 7 years old. So I suspect that her dad and her brother taught her at home because her dad is really good at cricket. He knows about the game. But for her to grasp that meant that she had some talent.”
Ramjit was a member of Chotoo’s under-11 teams that won state championships in 2015 and 2016. Her play in tournaments in Florida, Minnesota and Canada drew interest from the national team, which invited her to train with its players earlier this year.
Team USA coach Julia Price acknowledged she was initially concerned about Ramjit’s ability to handle the pressure of playing against international competition.
“Other than her size, I wouldn’t have known she was only 14,” Price wrote in an email from Australia, her home country. “Very mature and fit in brilliantly with the group. They are a very inclusive bunch of girls. Finding a player like Lisa in Australia at 14 is always exciting, but one in the USA is even more exciting! Hopefully, this is the start of an avalanche of players wanting more cricket in schools and colleges as well as more competitions specifically for girls.”
Price said she had no reservations about opening the three-game series against Canada with Ramjit starting as the bowler, and her confidence was validated when she finished with five wickets taken in 11 overs — overs are similar to innings in baseball — and helped the U.S. team win by 10 wickets. Ramjit, who was surprised when she saw her parents arrive before the game after a 16-hour drive, is still a little giddy over her performance.
“That was completely awesome,” she said. “Beforehand, they told us that anything you play here will go down in history and will be remembered for years to come. I was like, ‘OK, that’s pretty cool.’ Being able to open the bowling and get a wicket, the very first wicket for the team, that itself was a thrill. That was amazing.”
Liloutie said she and her husband are enjoying watching their daughter’s achievements.
“I believe that my husband and I think the same thing, that if you’re going to do something, try to do your best with it,” she said. “Enjoy it, but take it seriously. But I didn’t expect it.”
Ramjit said she would eventually like to go to college. But for the near future, she will accompany the national team to the T20 World Cup qualifier in Scotland from Aug. 31 to Sept. 7, when they will compete against Bangladesh, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Thailand and Zimbabwe for a chance to advance to the World Cup in Australia.
“I’m just trying to make the most out of it and enjoy the experience,” she said. “I know not many people get to experience this and get to go out of the country and represent the country and play against other nations and compete. So I’m just trying to enjoy the experience and go in there with a happy mind and try to bring it home for the U.S.”