LETESHA Bawden might be small in stature, but she’s a giant-killer on the cricket pitch.
The 11-year-old grade sixer has been surprising batsmen with her right-arm medium pace deliveries since she started playing for White Hills in the Bendigo junior competition several seasons ago.
Beware any boy game enough to underestimate her - when she takes a wicket and sends them on their way, she might as well stand six feet tall.
“Her coach used to call her his secret weapon,” says mum Trudy with a smile.
“The boys would see this little girl coming out and think it would be easy, and the coach would just stand there and chuckle...”
Letesha’s ability with the ball has now been recognised by Victoria’s cricket talent scouts and she has been chosen to represent her state at the national 12-and-under carnival in Darwin.
She is one of a dozen or so girls who will wear the navy Team Vic caps with pride from June 15-23.
Mrs Bawden says her daughter doesn’t quite realise the enormity of her achievement, being among just a handful of players to get through four selection trials and make the final team.
“Teesh can’t really see what all the fuss is about... but I think she will one day.”
The pint-size powerhouse began her cricket career in the back yard, bowling countless balls at older brother Tyler from a young age.
When he joined the White Hills Cricket Club as a junior, little sister tagged along to training and could be found mixing it with the big boys, bowling to them in the nets.
White Hills junior coach and Bendigo Advertiser sports editor Adam Bourke remembers Letesha turning up to those early training sessions and joining in.
“She was tiny, but she could bowl and field just as well as some of the older boys,” he says.
Dad Scott Bawden speaks of the day one of the White Hills under-11B teams was short of players and Letesha, then about eight, was asked to fill in.
“She went out to bat and put the helmet on and the pads came up to her chest, but she waddled out there,” he says.
“It was quite funny to see.”
Letesha went out to bat and put the helmet on and the pads came up to her chest, but she waddled out there.Scott Bawden
Letesha also remembers her debut, proudly recalling how she made three runs.
The following season, she officially joined the Demons and has been playing cricket ever since, now moving up to the under-13A division.
She represented the Northern Rivers region at the under-14 girls state titles in Shepparton this year, which gave her an insight into the pathways available for talented young players.
Still, Letesha says she was surprised to make the Victorian team and was feeling excited and a little nervous about her trip to Darwin.
She will have her mum there to cheer her on while Scott and Tyler hold the fort in Bendigo and follow her results online.
Letesha is a dedicated cricket fan, spending hours watching Test matches on the TV with her dad and giving critiques of the Australian team’s efforts.
Her favourite players are flamboyant opening batsman David Warner and speedster Mitchell Johnson.
Her parents say she is a reserved child who turns into a fierce competitor in any sporting arena.
She loves playing soccer for Golden City and volleyball for the White Hills Diggers, and is involved in her school’s Energy Breakthrough team.
She is also Bosquet house captain at White Hills Primary.
“We are extremely proud and would never forgo this opportunity for her,” Mrs Bawden says.
“When you think about the years, it’s not been that long since she started. I’m not sure if you’d call it natural ability, or just all those years of bowling the ball continuously to Tyler!
“She has obviously developed some skills over that time, but if you ask Tyler, she is where she is because of him - he claims credit.”
The Bawdens are also grateful to White Hills CC for supporting their daughter and treating her like any other player, even when she was just a little tacker at training and not even officially in a team.
“It is such a community and family-oriented club and a really good environment to be around,” Mrs Bawden says.