ST CHARLES, Mo. — In the St. Louis area, many kids grow up with dreams of hitting the ball at Busch Stadium for the Cardinals. Francis Howell North's Ritu Singh has similar dreams of crushing the ball. It's just that her choice of ball and bat look a bit different than those at Busch Stadium.
Every day, you can find Ritu and her father, Ranjeet, at DTJ Academy in St. Charles. It's a baseball and softball facility, but they use it to practice their passion: Cricket.
And Ritu has been a cricket star since almost the very beginning.
“I started playing men’s league when I was nine…and I started playing men’s hardball league, which is the more professional league, when I was 12," Ritu said.
“The boys were playing, and she was the only girl. But she was ahead of the boys all the time. She always scored and hit the ball harder than the boys. And everybody could see that she has in it, you know?" Ranjeet said.
Ritu still gets some confused looks from her classmates unfamiliar with the game, one of the most popular in the world, but they soon come around.
“Most people are asking me… 'Is it like baseball?' Some are even like, 'Is it like lacrosse?'... But they start to learn and then think it's cool. My softball team started playing a cricket video game because I introduced it to them," Ritu said.
“You can take skills from different sports, and put [them] into cricket. That’s what I’ve been doing. I take gymnastics and put it into how I dive, I take softball drills and put it into my fielding… and I can take the batting skills from cricket to softball. It was a really easy transition from cricket to softball. I’ve been playing cricket for 12 years now, but I’ve only been playing softball for two… but still made my varsity team.”
And this isn't just a hobby anymore for Ritu.
She recently traveled to South Africa with the United States U19 team to compete against the best cricket players in the world in her age bracket.
“Just the whole process of playing like that at an international stadium, and the ground that’s 20 times better than anything I’ve played at locally, and everything made it feel like a dream come true," Ritu said.
To play against the best talent she can in the states, she often has to travel far away from Missouri to find adequate competition.
“We travel all across the US. I have been on the road like 3/4 of my time," Ranjeet said. “It gives me so much pleasure watching her. I record every game of hers.”
The hope is that by the 2028 games in Los Angeles, cricket will be added to the Olympic sport slate. And Ritu has her sights set on making that team.
And don't worry, even if cricket isn't added to the Olympics, Singh has a plan to become an Olympian in trampoline gymnastics as well.
“That’s like a plan B," Ritu said laughing.
But for now, it's all about cricket. She's hoping to grow the sport in St. Louis and Missouri, and get better everyday training with her dad.
“Cricket has given a reason to connect with her, and that means a lot. That’s the biggest incentive in the sports because of the connection between her and me," Ranjeet said. “I hope girls in the U.S. look at her and take the sport and become part of it.”