We welcome players like Unmukt Chand, but we need to grow organically

Cricket is expanding in newer territories and regions as a sport as we see newer teams coming up in ICC’s regional championships and qualifying tournaments. Amongst the newer territories and national teams, United States of America (USA) has been one of the pioneers and one of the biggest regions on the ICC’s radar.

In fact, Cricket in USA is one of the strategic priorities that ICC is planning to develop to ensure the growth of cricket. USA hosting the 2024 T20 World Cup alongside West Indies and also participating will be a welcome step towards the objective.

“So I think, in the world of cricket, there’s no event, bigger than the World Cup. And that’s the best way to announce ourselves globally. There are two historic moments happening in 2024. One is, of course, we are co-hosting the World Cup for the first time. And second, is that we are gonna be playing the World Cup as well — the national team is going to play the World Cup. So it can’t get better than that,” the USA Cricket CEO Vinay Bhimjiani told Firstpost in an exclusive conversation.

Read | ICC approves USA Cricket as its 105th member

Although West Indies Cricket will take the senior role, being a full-time member and are looking after the majority of preparations, having their stadiums witness some of the greatest players from the current generation diving around the field will be significant for them.

However, the bigger prospect is the USA Women’s Under-19 team qualifying for the inaugural World Cup in South Africa, which commences on 14 January. The 2023 Under-19 Women’s World Cup will be the inaugural edition of the tournament, to be hosted by South Africa.

USA, being the only eligible team from the Americas regional group, automatically qualified for the tournament.

USA Cricket Chairman Atul Rai was eloquent about how important the milestone is for them.

“To catapult our cricket, women’s cricket into the world scene is a humongous deal. So from that perspective alone, it puts the world’s eye onto women’s cricket in the US. So it is a significant milestone for us, Rai said in a conversation with Firstpost.

“It’s a significant event for us, and we’re very proud of what these girls have done. And, we only can see this going further and further into a new era of growth of cricket in the US, especially from the women’s side.”

Talking about USA Women’s chances at the Under-19 World Cup, Rai said that he would love to have a crystal ball to see and foretell their team’s performance.

“If I had a crystal ball and a magic wand, I would answer all your questions (laughs). But, I wish, I would like, love them to win the World Cup. But obviously, I have to be realistic. Their practice sessions are going fantastic from the ground level, so it’s excellent. We have Shiv Paul (Shivnarine Chanderpaul) as the coach, and we have, the support staff, and every day that we speak to them, the spirits are very, very high.”

Rai also believes that women’s cricket in USA is expected to grow faster than men’s cricket and explained that with reference to the growth of other sports.

Words of wisdom ✅
Practice sessions ✅
Practice games ✅
Camaraderie ✅

“And I believe that women’s cricket will grow faster than men’s cricket because of the way things have gone with other sports as well.

“If you look at the model of FIFA, when FIFA launched soccer in the US, it was women’s soccer that actually took over faster. And generally, in our community-based programs that work in the US, the families actually take the initiative, and so they will support both men and women equally. And so I believe that the women’s side, there is a lot more interest, generally in terms of all of the sport.”

The growth of cricket itself, irrespective of gender, is commendable in a country like USA, where in Soccer and Baseball are the fan-favorites and take the front seat.

“20 years ago, we were still trying to have an Under-19 team. We actually went to the World Cup in 2000, in Under-19 World Cup. Our Under-19 team qualified for the World Cup at that time. So since then, the number of youth, young players playing has increased hundred times,” Rai said.

“So one thing that we are trying to do at this point from the futuristic point of view is to get the community, get involved, and organically grow the game. So to answer your question, it’s growing really well.

“The resources that we have are not limited to just the US alone, but the outside resources that we have with all of the support that we have from the community and the parents and others is humongous,” he added.

As Rai puts emphasis on the support from the community and parents, it is important to understand the USA’s demographics and the rise of Asians in recent times. The US Census Bureau figures also confirms that Indians account for more than half the region’s Asian population boom.

While cricket arrived in India on the wings of British colonialism, and became an equivalent to religion, it would be appropriate to say that in USA, cricket arrived on the wings of India’s migratory population.

Several Indian cricketers who were significant names in the domestic circuit, but could not make it to the national team have also migrated to the USA to pry their trade and try their luck. Some of the big names include India’s 2012 Under-19 captain Unmukt Chand, Smit Patel, Harmeet Singh, and Saurabh Netravalkar.

There was a hiatus on Twitter when USA Announced its Under-19 team and the majority of the players were of Indian origin.

USA Cricket understands the importance of these Indian players but wants to grow quality players organically.

“This will make USA a better cricket-playing country and having quality players is important. But it is still important to organically grow the game and find our own Unmukt Chands, and our Virat Kohlis in the US. For the girls and boys that play the game, they need to find that local hero.

“We welcome all of the players there from India. The quality players that come here, they will help the quality of the game in different levels, but we still need to find our own local heroes.” Rai signed off.

Read all the Latest News, Trending News, Cricket News, Bollywood News, India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *