The Indian Girl Who Became the Leader of the USA

Eight years ago, in a domestic game, a Tamil Nadu opener came out to face Bengal’s bowling attack, led by legendary Indian fast bowler and captain Jhulan Goswami. The batsman mistimed the ball but the fielder at midwicket dropped what would have been an easy catch. Standing on the sidelines, Tamil Nadu allrounder Shebani Bhaskar – just 15 years old – watched Goswami run from her position at mid-off to confer with the fielder. “It’s okay, it happens,” Bhaskar overheard Goswami say, patting the fielder on the back. “Concentrate on the next ball.”

Goswami kept her composure. She didn’t show any frustration. She was not angry. She just wanted the fielder to focus on what was coming next. West Bengal ended up winning the match.

“That’s the kind of captain I’d like to be,” says Bhaskar, reflecting on that moment. “As a player, that’s what I’d want my captain to do. When I drop a catch, I am already feeling bad about it. I don’t need somebody to show their frustration at me. As a captain, I want to lift that person’s spirits, so when the next ball comes around, the result is going to be different.”

Little did Bhaskar know that she would lead an international team – albeit one outside India – nine years later.

In early March this year, 23-year-old Bhaskar – whose nickname was “Captain Cool” in college because of her calm approach toward leadership – was named the captain of the United States women’s national team. The three-week tour of Australia that the team is currently on will be her first test.

The women will look to Bhaskar’s leadership and international experience to accomplish something they have never done before: qualify for a World Cup. “Her playing that high level of cricket consistently will really push the team to step up their game, and we know that she can carry the team with the support of the team members,” Bhaskar’s team-mate Nadia Gruny says.

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