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Kiwi stars, scientists and recruits from Facebook: Misfit team that can spark USA cricket explosion

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From the NBA to the NFL, America is one of the powerhouse nations of the sporting world.

And now they’re starting to make waves in cricket.

For the first time this year, the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup makes its way to America, a largely untapped market for the sport.

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The host nation is fresh off a series win against Bangladesh and completed a clean sweep of Canada in preparation for the tournament.

The sport’s governing body wants to have one million US kids playing cricket by 2028 and is hoping that the event will capture the hearts and eyes of the country.

“The World Cup has a crucial role in grabbing the attention of fans and potential fans, but really what we leave behind as the legacy of this World Cup is what will count,” ICC chief commercial office Anurag Dahiya said.

“We’re partnering with schools to incorporate cricket into their physical education programs, that involves things like teaching them the basics of cricket, and a lot of that will kick off from the new school term in August.

“The aim there is as we get to the Olympics in LA in 2028, we are aiming to have a million school kids playing cricket.

“Equally, there is a focus on training and education, developing coaches and officials… and that is where we feel the proper foundation for the sustainable growth of our sport will be laid.”

With cricket set to boom in the States and ahead of their co-hosting of the tournament later in June, let’s take a look at the stars of the show.

MONANK PATEL

The man that’s going to lead the United States into battle in the opening match of the T20 World Cup on Sunday morning.

Patel is a swashbuckling 31-year-old wicketkeeper-bat who was born in Anund, Gujarat in India.

Cricket is his full-time career, and he is among a handful of players with Indian diaspora roots who are partaking in the upcoming World Cup for the USA.

Patel received a green card in 2010, permanently moving to New Jersey in 2016 but pursuing his dream of becoming a professional in a country where cricket has hardly been a priority.

In an interview with the Indian Times in 2022, Patel highlighted the difficulties he had finding a personal coach, instead resorting to training alone and recording his own footage to send to the national team coach and his father.

Patel averages 22 runs at a strike rate of 130 through 25 T20I matches.

AARON JONES

No, it’s not the running back from the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL making a code-switch.

Born in the USA to Barbadian parents, Jones is a handy middle-order bat, who doesn’t mind bowling the occasional bit of leg-spin in the short format.

He’s the most capped USA player of all-time, with a combined 69 ODI and T20I appearances.

Jones spent some time playing in Australia over the summer linking up with the Brisbane Heat’s Academy team.

His favourite cricketer is West Indian legend Brian Lara and he’s a key part of the Seattle Orcas in Major League Cricket.

ANDRIES GOUS

The South African-born powerful batter is likely to feature at the top of the order for team USA in the World Cup.

He’s in ripping knick too, having blasted two quick-fire half-centuries in the lead up to the tournament.

Gous made the move from South Africa to the United States in early 2021 after signing a three-year deal to play cricket.

In an interview with Club Cricket SA in 2021, Gous outlined the increased stability the opportunity would offer his young family as a key factor in the move.

“There is stability in the States and this move is for me and my family,” he said.

Gous is a proud husband to partner Rolandi and father of three young children.

Between the years of 2012 and 2014, Gous studied financial planning at the University of the Free State.

COREY ANDERSON

A name that will be familiar to a lot of cricket fans!

Anderson is a former New Zealand international player who is a superstar all-rounder and will provide plenty of firepower to this United States lineup.

Anderson has scored the second-fastest ODI century of all-time, blasting an unbeaten 131 off just 47 balls against the West Indies back in 2014, reaching the century off just 36 deliveries.

He’s played 13 Tests, 49 ODIs and 36 T20Is over his career so far.

The 33-year-old has plenty of domestic short format experience, having played 167 games for teams like the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League and the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League.

After retiring from the New Zealand setup in 2020, Anderson made the move to the USA in 2021 to participate in the Major Cricket League.

He joins an exclusive set of players to play international T20s for two nations alongside the likes of Jade Dernbach, Mark Chapman, Tim David and Dirk Nannes.

An interesting fact about the big Kiwi that you might not know, Anderson was born with just 5% hearing in his left ear.

ALI KHAN

The fast bowler was born and raised in Pakistan until his family made the move to the United Stats when he was 19 years old, settling in Ohio.

Khan was the first American cricketer bought in an IPL auction when the Kolkata Knight Riders selected him back in the 2020 season, but unfortunately, he never broke through for a game.

Nicknamed ‘The Yorker Machine’ the 33-year-old grew up playing tape ball cricket with his brothers and cousins on the streets and rooftops.

“We would break windows, always get in trouble, come home late. My parents were very strict, they were like ‘study, study, study and go to school, no cricket’,” the seamer told the TMS does the IPL podcast in 2020.

But it was a Facebook message that really catapulted Khan’s career.

“I played in the Ohio league and then in 2013 there’s a guy named Maq Quereshi, he was the founder of the US Open T20 tournament which they play in Florida in December,” Khan said.

“I contacted him on Facebook and said I want to play cricket, I’m a fast bowler, is there any opportunity? He said buy your ticket and we’ll see if we like you.”

It was from that point onwards, that Khan’s life as a professional cricketer really took off.

HARMEET SINGH

Another player with Indian heritage playing for the USA this World Cup, Harmeet was a key part of the Indian Under 19 side in the 2012 World Cup.

And he hasn’t been in the US setup too long, having debuted on April 7 this year.

Harmeet is a slow left arm orthodox bowler but can do damage with both bat and ball.

In the USA’s clash with Canada on April 12, Singh took 4/18 and smashed 34 runs off 17 balls to lift his side to victory in a man-of-the-match performance.

Harmeet was scouted as a nine-year-old by Shivaji Park Gymkhana and was coached by the likes of Padmakar Shivalkar and Praveen Amre.

Harmeet is another player who has spent time in the Brisbane Heat Academy here in Australia.

JESSY SINGH

If you like elaborate celebrations, you’re going to like Jessy Singh.

Jessy was born in New York but moved to India at the age of three, only returning to the US when he was 13 years old.

Jessy first got interested in cricket playing with a tennis ball in his apartment complex when he was still a young teenage.

Jessy took a hat-trick in the inaugural American Cricket Federation National Championship back in 2012 and made his debut for the national side in 2015.

Jessy embodies passion and love of the game.

“When you’re representing your country, there’s no holding back, you have to go all out,” he told USA Cricket.

Singh took the wicket of Bangladeshi wicketkeeper bat Litton Das in their recent series against Bangladesh in May.

He loves to take a wicket and represent his country, fingers crossed we see an iconic celebration this tournament!

Stokes out of T20 World Cup | 00:31

MILIND KUMAR

Milind Kumar is new on the scene to international cricket, having made his debut in the USA’s recent series against Canada.

The right-handed middle order bat can also bowl off-spin, making him a handy player and has featured for the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League.

He currently holds the record for the fastest List A century by an American, achieving it in just 43 balls.

He has also been involved in a record-breaking 200 run stand with captain Monank Patel.

NISARG PATEL

Another Indian-born American cricketer, Nisarg Patel is still doing his thing at 36 years of age.

Nisarg has done a masters in pharmaceutical sciences and works full-time at a medical research company.

In an interview with PTI, Nisarg said he was keen to pick the brains of some of India’s best cricketers when they face off in New York.

“I would ask Virat (Kohli) the run machine, how do you do it? Especially when it comes to chasing and (Ravindra) Jadeja simple stuff like how he prepares for batting, bowling and fielding,” he said.

The left-arm spinning all-rounder was suspended from bowling back in February 2020 after his action had been reported by match officials in a game against Oman.

In November of that year, the ICC ruled that Nisarg’s action still exceeded the permitted 15 degrees, and he was told to further remodel his action.

In early February of 2021, Nisarg’s action was deemed legal once more.

NITISH KUMAR

Nitish Kumar was once upon a time the Canadian national team captain.

He made his last appearance for Canada back in 2019 before converting to the USA setup in recent times.

He is one of the youngest ever to play in a World Cup, having made his debut at the age of just 16, nicknamed “Tendulkar”.

The now 30-year-old was instrumental in finishing the clean sweep of his birth nation, blasting a match-high 64 runs off just 38 deliveries as an opener in their final match of the series.

NOSTHUSH KENJIGE

Back in 2016, Nosthush Kenjige, who works as a hospital equipment diagnostics technician, showed up to a cricket trial in New York, hoping to catch the eye of those in power.

Given the fact that Kenjige had not been living in the USA for at least four years prior to that trial, he had to go and demonstrate commitment to the local community, he told ESPN Cricinfo back in 2023.

So, Kenjige would work his regular 9-5pm shift servicing x-ray machines in hospitals before doing four hours of coaching every weeknight until 10pm afterwards.

Then on weekends he’d roll in again, helping out with the academy players. It wasn’t long before the facility owners gave him his own key as he was often the last man there, spending time on his own craft as well.

The crafty spinner took 3/21 against Canada back in April.

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SAURABH NETRAVALKAR

Currently ranked 20th in the ICC’s ODI Bowling rankings, Netravalakar looms as a crucial piece to the USA’s success this tournament.

The tall left-armer is known for his consistent line and length and ability to swing the ball both ways.

He is able to do a job with the new ball at the start of the innings but has also proved to be effective in the latter stages as a close out bowler.

Netravalkar is a software engineers working at Oracle as well.

SHADLEY VAN SCHALKWYK

Van Schalkwyk attended the same high school as South African cricketing legends Jacques Kallis and Allan Lamb and back in the day he was in the South African cricket academy.

Van Schalkwyk was born in Cape Town and has plenty of senior cricket experience, having played a combined total of 106 T20s across his career in addition to 111 List A matches.

Schalkwyk’s journey through cricket hasn’t been an easy one but his strong work ethic and perseverance has seen him become the player he is today.

The Los Angeles Knight Riders representative has taken four two-wicket hauls in his last six appearances against both Bangladesh and Canada.

He looks like he’ll be a very important piece for Stuart Law’s side during their World Cup campaign.

STEVEN TAYLOR

One of the country’s best homegrown talents, Steven Taylor is arguably the USA’s finest ever cricketer.

Taylor is the USA’s highest run-scorer in international cricket, blasting close to 2,000 runs throughout his career.

The South Florida product began playing cricket with adults at the age of just nine years’ old, such was his talent. His first USA senior tour experience came when he was just 16.

Taylor has hit some superb T20 centuries over his time, including the first ever USA ton with a 101 runs off 62 balls against Bermuda, an unbeaten 127 off 62 against the Cayman Islands and a 162 off 101 against Nepal.

The powerful opening batter will play a huge role in determining the fortunes of this side.

SHAYAN JAHANGIR

Jahangir played seven youth one-dayers for Pakistan in 2013 but has since crossed over to the United States.

He scored his first ever ODI century in the Cricket World Cup Qualifier against Nepal last year, bashing an unbeaten 100 runs from just 79 balls.

Jahangir has played just one international match for the USA since July last year but has been included in the 15-man squad for the World Cup.

The USA face Canada in the first match of the 2024 T20 World Cup on Sunday morning at 10:30am AEST.

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