The big story this week for American cricket is the USA men’s appearance in the World Cricket League 2, which kicks off on Saturday. It’s “all to play for,” really, as the USA Cricket website so aptly put it. A finish in the top four means ODI status and a spot in Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2. The latter brings with it a chance to play 18 One Day Internationals over a two year period, and would put USA Cricket just two steps away from qualification for the 2022 ODI World Cup.
Here’s a breakdown from USA Cricket of the path to India in 2023:
I don’t think the USA will qualify for the World Cup, but I like their chances in Namibia this week, and I think that alone will be cause for celebration. As USA Captain said:
Qualifying for ODI status means an entry into a completely new world of top level professional cricket. It would be a ray of hope for the aspiring youth of the country to consider cricket as a potential full time career. It gives the opportunity for us to build a solid domestic cricket structure as well as the power to try and promote the game bottom up, right from the school and university levels to the national and international levels.
He’s not wrong. While I am a big believer that the key to growing the game is with youth programs, you don’t get buy-in on the infrastructure and capital needed for those leagues without some success by a marquee team — either men’s or women’s — at the international level. And while Joe on the Street won’t give two licks about ODI status or qualification for World Cup League 2, something like “two steps away from the 2023 World Cup” might grab their attention.
Plus, more than anything, it’s the chance for the USA to play 18 high level ODIs. That kind of experience is invaluable for both the players and the whole of USA Cricket going forward.
Another interesting note is the ages of the USA squad in Namibia.
Saurabh Netravalkar (27), Jaskaran Malhotra (29), Steven Taylor (25), Jan Nisar Khan (37), Roy Silva (38), Monank Patel (25), Timil Patel (35), Aaron Jones (24), Hayden Walsh Jr. (26), Elmore Hutchinson (36), Muhammad Ali Khan (28), Nosthush Kenjige (28), Xavier Marshall (33), Jessy Singh (26).
That’s their best squad for the tournament this week, but half of them are already north of 30 or will be when the WCL 2 wraps up. The average age is just hair shy of 30. And so while age related decline in cricket doesn’t happen as rapidly as it does in other sports, the squad is still, well, old. Or at least on the older side. Do the older players move to the side to allow younger players to gain the valuable experience of the WCL 2? Or does USA Cricket stick with what got them there? Are there even enough talented young players available to fill the shoes of their older colleagues?
I guess the key question here is: does the USA see qualification for the 2023 World Cup as a legitimate possibility, or are they playing the long game and see WCL 2 as one small step in a very tall ladder? We will find out if the USA qualifies and when we see their squad selection.
The glass is half full side of the above is that USA has seven players in their mid-20s who will, if they qualify, have the opportunity to play in 18 ODIs over the next couple of years. That paints a rosy picture for the future of USA Cricket.
No matter what, exciting times down in Namibia this week. I’ll be tuning in, you should too, we all might get a chance to see a little history being made.