Intense, Specialized Instruction for Nascent Organization’s First Professionally Contracted Players has US National Cricket Team Primed for its Next Historic Achievement
The ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers begin this Sunday in Bermuda where the US National Cricket Team starts its quest to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Australia. To prepare for what’s sure to be a competitive event, the National Team recently completed a historic three-week training camp in Los Angeles last week. The extended camp, led by famed India wicketkeeper Kiran More and his new coaching staff, resulted in across-the-board improvements for the team and positions them for success heading into what promises to be a highly competitive tournament.
Playing on a turf pitch at the quaint Woodley Park, just north of Los Angeles, the National Team executed a rigorous training routine with emphasis on match scenarios, fitness and fielding. The longest training camp in USA Cricket history was administered by the unique team of specialist coaches who each brought their expertise to USA Cricket.
The Chairman of USA Cricket, Paraag Marathe, addressed the players at the conclusion of the camp with optimism about the opportunity to do something special in Bermuda – feelings shared by players and coaches alike – following the team achieving ODI status back in Namibia in April 2019.
A similar sentiment was echoed by team captain Saurabh Netravalkar who said, “The coaches have really brought a sense of professionalism; they push us as hard as possible. When you train hard,
matches become easier. We’ve improved in a few areas. Most importantly is the fitness. We have gone from being a bunch of weekend players to reaching near professional levels. In all aspects, we are showing improvements.”
With the training sessions prioritizing match scenarios and overall fitness, these scenarios revealed just how much the team had improved, with James Pamment, the new fielding coach, pointing out how much more dialed in and alert the team is now on the field. Senior cricket operations consultant, Kiran More, elaborated upon the structure of the camp:
“Fitness was very important for us; the guys have put in a lot of hard work and you can see the improvement. They’re very talented and with the expertise of this coaching staff, it is now up to them to perform in matches. We’ve done a lot of match scenarios and have worked out who is going to bat when and bowl when. Most of the team are all-rounders, everyone can bat. That’s the beauty of this team. What they have, we need to convert it to the highest level.”
This new prevailing sense of optimism comes at a time when USA Cricket also announced a historic set of new player contracts that allow cricketers in America to be financially supported better than ever before.
As part of USA Cricket’s partnership with ACE to launch a domestic cricket league in America, a joint venture was formed and 20 players were extended professional contracts. This is the first time that USA cricketers have been extended contracts featuring monthly salaries, bonuses based on performance by the individual as well as the team, and comprehensive health insurance coverage for the contracted players. The highest tier contracts are in excess of $90,000 per year.
In the wake of these historic contracts, “professionalism” seemed to be the recurring theme around the camp, while speaking to the players and selectors. Amer Afzaluddin, a current National Team selector and member of the USA’s 2004 Champions Trophy squad, was full of praise about the camp and noted how unique this opportunity was:
“This camp in LA is something extraordinary. I’ve never seen anything like this before – the professional coaches come from big franchises in the IPL and have provided us with dedicated coaching unlike we’ve ever had before. In my memory we have never had a professional staff like this.”
In addition to notable improvements on the field, it was clear that the training camp had helped team bonding off the pitch. Players stayed in a hotel near the training ground for three weeks, with players frequently hanging out by the pool together after training. It was particularly important for the new coaching staff to have a chance to bond with the players before the World Cup qualifiers. Mr. More emphasized the importance of bonding from a staff perspective:
“We are all new support staff with a totally new set up, so bonding was really important. These three weeks were very precious and we’ve really enjoyed the time. It’s really got the players close to the support staff in a meaningful way heading into the qualifier.”
Mr. Netravalkar spoke extensively about team bonding, describing how part of his duty as a captain was to foster a family atmosphere in the team. Spending three weeks together is a unique opportunity for the team, as the players live all over the country and don’t have the chance to spend time as a unit often:
“It has really helped us bond together as a unit, not just on the field, but off the field as well. We’ve spent time as a team relaxing by the pool and have had barbeques after training. It is a really exciting time for cricket in the USA.”
Players had the opportunity to spend a few days at home with their families after the camp, before flying out to Bermuda. Their first match is on Sunday against the host nation. The team needs to finish in the top two out of four to qualify for the next round of qualifying matches in Dubai later this year. In addition to the Bermudan team, the US National Team will play matches against teams from Canada and the Cayman Islands in a double round robin format.
The USA will play Canada, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands in the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier Americas’ Region Final from August 18 to 25, 2019.
Team USA squad:
Saurabh Netravalkar (C – Marin 1, Northern California Cricket Association)
Steven Taylor (VC – Sheffield Cricket Club, New York Metropolitan Cricket League)
Timroy Allen (Strykers Cricket Club, Florida Cricket Conference)
Cameron Gannon (Queensland, Australia/USA)
Karima Gore (Antigua/USA)
Aaron Jones (Atlantis Cricket Club, New York Metropolitan Cricket League)
Muhammad Ali Khan (Ohio All Stars, Unity Cup)
Jaskaran Malhotra (Triggers Cricket Club, Houston Cricket League)
Xavier Marshall (Villagers Athletic Sports Club, New York Metropolitan Cricket League)
Monank Patel (Freedom Cricket Club, Cricket League of New Jersey)
Nisarg Patel (Vijayta Cricket Club, Southern California Cricket Association)
Timil Patel (Vijayta Cricket Club, Southern California Cricket Association)
Jasdeep Singh (Smashers Cricket Club, Cricket League of New Jersey)
Hayden Walsh Jr. (Atlantis Cricket Club, New York Metropolitan Cricket League)