American cricket finds serious backers

In a historic first for cricket lovers in the U.S., Grand Prairie, Texas, and Morrisville, North Carolina, will host the inaugural season of Major League Cricket (MLC) starting July 13. Backed by the International Cricket Council (ICC), Indian Premier League franchises, and desi tech heavyweights like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the tournament is expected to create the right kind of buzz for the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, 2024, to be hosted by the United States and the West Indies.

USA Cricket set the ball rolling for the MLC a few years back by creating Minor League Cricket, which had its inaugural season in 2021. Many of the top performers in the minor league have found spots on MLC teams.  This is the game-changing opportunity American cricket enthusiasts have been waiting for: each team has to field at least six domestic players in its playing 11.

However, as an aspiring American cricketer myself, I was disappointed to see that not many truly homegrown domestic players have been selected. Noteworthy players like Rahul Jariwala and Vatsal Vaghela have been left out. Both of them received USA Cricket’s Emerging Player Scholarship but failed to make it on a team. Jariwala and Vaghela played in the Minor League tournament and made significant contributions to their teams. 

Even so, there’s much to celebrate, as the tournament is a giant leap for American cricket.

Six teams from across the U.S. to battle it out

This is an image of the Major League Cricket logo. It says Major League Cricket in blue with MLC below, with M in red and LC in blue. (Image courtesy: MLC, Twitter)
MLC Logo (Image courtesy: MLC, Twitter)

There are six teams across the United States:  Washington Freedom, Texas Super Kings, MI New York, LA Knight Riders, Seattle Orcas, and the San Francisco Unicorns. Among these teams, the Texas Super Kings, MI New York, and the LA Knight Riders are owned by IPL franchises. The IPL is the world’s second-richest sports league, bested only by the NFL. 

While the games this season will be split between Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas and Church Street Park, in Morrisville, North Carolina, each team is expected to have its own home stadium in the future. 

There will be 19 group-stage matches, and the top four teams will make it to the playoffs. Much like the IPL format, the top teams will play an eliminator, qualifier, challenger, and then the final match to decide the winner of the tournament. 

Teams USA

Texas Super Kings

Faf du Plessis (Captain), Milind Kumar, Sami Aslam, Cody Chetty, Saiteja Mukkamalla, David Miller, Devon Conway, Calvin Savage, Zia Shahzad, Dwayne Bravo, Daniel Sams, Mitchell Santner, Lahiru Milantha, Rusty Theron, Cameron Stevenson, Gerald Coetzee

TSK has put together a good team, with many former and current IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings players. 

Batting: They have one of the strongest opening partnerships, with Faf du Plessis and Devon Conway. David Miller, a phenomenal finisher who is in amazing form is also on the roster.

Bowling: On the bowling front, they have a few bowling all-rounders, such as Rusty Theron, Cameron Stevenson, and Calvin Savage. They also have CSK’s own Dwayne Bravo, and the young Gerald Coetzee. 

Domestic talent: With their U19 selection in the draft, they picked Saiteja Mukkamalla. He is a great player, and has wonderful technique and timing, but might struggle with his strike rate. They also have Milind Kumar and Lahiru Milantha, who are both good domestic batters. 

Weak link: One area that might be lacking is their spin bowling department. Besides Mitchell Santner, they only have Zia Shahzad, a wrist spinner. 

X-factor: Daniel Sams. Sams is a good fast bowler, and can also bat. TSK will be hoping that he can execute both of these abilities. 

MI New York

Kieron Pollard (Captain), Steven Taylor, Shayan Jahangir, Tim David, David Wiese, Dewald Brevis, Monank Patel, Saideep Ganesh, Nicholas Pooran, Kyle Philip, Ehsan Adil, Nosthush Kenjige, Sarbjit Ladda, Trent Boult, Kagiso Rabada, Jason Behrendorff, Rashid Khan

MI New York has a star-studded team. 

Batting: This team has some of the best finishers in world cricket in Nicholas Pooran, Tim David, and Kieron Pollard. 

Bowling: An amazing fast bowling lineup that includes Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult, and Jason Behrendorff. They also have Rashid Khan, the best spinner in international cricket. 

Domestic Talent:  They have the USA captain, Monank Patel, and Steven Taylor, who is arguably the best batter on Team USA and an aggressive left-hander. 

Weak Link: Their top order – they will have to rely on their domestic players to perform. 

X-factor: Twenty-year-old Dewald Brevis Brevis has been nicknamed Baby AB for his 360-degree shots. 

Seattle Orcas

Wayne Parnell (Captain), Shehan Jayasuriya, Aaron Jones, Nauman Anwar, Angelo Perera, Harmeet Singh, Shubham Ranjane, Cameron Gannon, Mitchell Marsh, Dasun Shanaka, Sikandar Raza, Quinton de Kock, Phani Simhadri, Matthew Tromp, Andrew Tye

The Orcas have built a very balanced team. 

Batting: Their overseas talent includes Quinton de Kock and Mitchell Marsh, both of whom are among the most powerful players in world cricket. Sri Lankan captain, Dasun Shanaka, brings his vast experience to the Orcas. Sikandar Raza picked up the 4th highest number of wickets and scored the 5th highest number of runs in the 2022 T20 World Cup. 

Bowling: Marsh, Shanaka, and Raza, are all batters with terrific bowling talent, giving the Orcas a good amount of flexibility. 

Domestic Talent: Shehan Jayasuriya and Aaron Jones are both US domestic batters with international experience. 

Weak Link: They don’t have enough specialist bowlers, which might hold them back.  

X-factor: Shehan Jayasuriya. The Orcas will be hoping that Jayasuriya will bring his excellent form in Minor League Cricket to MCL this season.

San Francisco Unicorns

Aaron Finch (Captain), Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Qais Ahmed, Finn Allen, Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf, Lungi Ngidi, Corey Anderson, Chaitanya Bishnoi, Brody Couch, Sanjay Krishnamurti, Carmi Leroux, Smit Patel, Liam Plunkett, Tajinder Singh, David White

The Unicorns went for veteran players in the draft. 

Batting: With their overseas selections, they chose to build a strong top order, with Aaron Finch, Matthew Wade, and Marcus Stoinis. 

Bowling: The Unicorns have a strong bowling attack, including Shadab Khan, Haris Rauf, Lungi Ngidi, and Qais Ahmed. Veteran Liam Plunkett joins them as well. 

Domestic Players: With their U19 selection, the Unicorns picked  Sanjay Krishnamurti, who bowls left-arm orthodox, and can also bat. 

Weak Link: The team lacks finishers. They might have to shuffle their batting order around to use either Stoinis or Wade as a finishing option. 

X-factor: Corey Anderson. At the peak of his powers, Anderson was a scary batter, and a good bowler. If Anderson can return to form, the Unicorns will be an improved team. 

LA Knight Riders

Sunil Narine (Captain), Jaskaran Malhotra, Jason Roy, Martin Guptill, Nitish Kumar, Rilee Rossouw, Saif Badar, Unmukt Chand, Ali Sheikh, Andre Russell, Bhaskar Yadram, Shadley van Schalkwyk, Adam Zampa, Ali Khan, Corne Dry, Lockie Ferguson

The Knights signed many Kolkata Knight Riders players, including Andre Russell, and Sunil Narine. 

Batting: The Knights team has a very strong batting attack, with plenty of options at their disposal. The ones to look out for are Jason Roy, Martin Guptill (New Zealand), and Rilee Rossouw from South Africa. 

Bowling: Lockie Ferguson is a threatening pacer, and is currently one of the fastest in the world. Adam Zampa is a fantastic spinner. 

Domestic talent: Ali Khan and Shadley van Schalkwyk are both fast bowlers with experience playing against top-tier talent. 

X-factor: Ali Sheikh. This is one of my favorite picks. He has been on selectors’ radars for a while now and was the earliest U19 selection in the draft. Sheikh has huge potential and is the best homegrown player from the US. In U19 cricket, he scored a century in 60 balls and piled up a ton of runs in youth cricket. He can also bowl a handy left-arm orthodox, which should be helpful for the Knight Riders. 

Washington Freedom

Moises Henriques (Captain), Mukhtar Ahmed, Saad Ali, Sujith Gowda, Jacobus Pienaar, Justin Dill, Anrich Nortje, Saurabh Netravalkar, Dane Piedt, Marco Jansen, Akhilesh Bodugum, Adam Milne, Ben Dwarshuis, Akeal Hosein, Andries Gous, Glenn Phillips, Josh Philippe

Batting: The team has some fearless players such as Glenn Phillips. Josh Philippe, an opening batsman-keeper, has scored many runs in Australia’s Big Bash League. Moises Henriques is also a powerful addition to their team. 

Bowling: The Washington Freedom has some of the fastest bowlers currently in world cricket. Anrich Nortje, Adam Milne, and Marco Jansen can hit speeds as high as 155 kilometers per hour. Akeal Hosein heads their spinners. Hosein is a crafty bowler and does not give away too many runs. 

Domestic players: Their most notable picks were Andries Gous and Saurabh Netravalkar. Gous is an attacking batter and has played in overseas leagues such as the Abu Dhabi T20 competition. Netravalkar is a left-arm pacer who gets awesome swings when he bowls with the new ball. 

Weak link: Spin bowling. Other than Akeal Hosein, the only player with real international experience is Dane Piedt. 

X-factor: Saurabh Netravalkar. Netravalkar has shown that he can stand up to top talent. 

Adi’s Crystal Ball Rankings

  1. MI New York
  2. Seattle Orcas
  3. Texas Super Kings
  4. Washington Freedom
  5. San Francisco Unicorns
  6. LA Knight Riders

Champion: MI New York

Who’s your favorite team?

Adi Anand is a 10th grader living in the Bay Area. He is an avid sports fan. In his free time, Adi likes to read.