U.S. cricket team hopes to build on surprise run at T20 World Cup

Three months before the start of the 2024 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, USA Cricket drastically shifted the program’s direction ahead of the most important tournament in U.S. men’s cricket history, where they would serve as co-host.

USA Cricket ousted chairman Michael Voss and his entire selection committee amid allegations of unfair player selection policies. An influx of youth followed, led by 34-year-old Los Angeles-born Ravi Timbawala, a former U.S. national player and active cricketer.

The organization named Timbawala as chief selector and tasked him with building a competitive roster while the cricket world focused on the United States.

“We were short on time, but we did our best to put everything together,” Timbawala said.

The committee first glimpsed prospective players during the T20 national championships in Texas in late February. A month later, they narrowed down the pool during the T20 training camp.

“We saw a lot of these guys more in depth at the T20 camp,” Timbawala said. “From that, we basically came up with the squad.”

In the lead-up to the World Cup, the team had the opportunity to experiment with different lineups and fine-tune the roster during a series of matches against Canada and Bangladesh.

The U.S. captured a historic 2-1 series victory over Bangladesh, marking its first series win against an International Cricket Council full member nation — a status indicating a country’s well-established and successful cricketing infrastructure.

A team built on short notice has become the unexpected darling of the cricket world, with Team USA continuing its miraculous run as it prepares for the Super Eight stage of the World Cup.

Entering the group stages ranked 18th in the ICC men’s rankings, the team embraced the underdog mentality against some of the world’s best. An upset victory over Pakistan and a narrow loss to India have earned them global respect from major cricket-playing nations.

“In the World Cup, consistently performing well against bigger teams has given us a lot of confidence that this wasn’t a fluke,” said veteran all-rounder Nisarg Patel.

Patel was born in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, and his family migrated to the U.S. in 2003, settling in Southern California when he was a teenager.

Since 2006, Patel has played in the U.S. men’s cricket program, spending the last seven years on the national team. During this time, he witnessed firsthand the struggles and lengthy process the U.S. team underwent to achieve success at the global level.

Patel said the U.S. team’s trajectory and performance in this year’s World Cup had been a couple of years in the making, regardless of whether the rest of the world expected it.

“We went into the tournament as underdogs,” Patel said. “Nobody expected us to beat bigger teams. Nobody expected us to beat Bangladesh or Pakistan. Nobody even expected us to put up a fight against India.”

Throughout the tournament, Patel said the team has displayed a mental toughness that has kept them competing with the kingmakers of the cricket world. He credited the team’s chemistry and cohesion as key to their success.

“It is very heartening to see how the team is doing. Everyone is rallying behind each other, playing as a unit,” Timbawala said.

During the selection process, the committee was keen on picking players who believed in the team’s potential for success, Timbawala said.

Many of Team USA’s players have never experienced the pressure of competing on the world stage, including playing in front of 33,000 fans in New York against a dominant India team.

“A lot of people have rallied behind the team, and the boys understand the ginormous amount of pressure they’re under because you don’t often get to this historic level,” said former Team USA player Abhimanyu Rajp.

It’s a stark contrast to the atmosphere Rajp experienced over a decade ago, playing in front of empty seats in stadiums that were ill-equipped for large crowds.

Rajp, a member of Team USA from 2005 to 2015, is now co-owner of the Los Angeles Lashings, the city’s minor league cricket team, where Timbawala also plays. Additionally, Rajp serves on the board of Los Angeles Cricket, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting youth cricketers.

He has followed the team from state to state during the World Cup and has witnessed the strong national support, which he always believed was a possibility.

“The U.S. team has already gained a lot of respect with what the boys have done on the field,” Rajp said. “It’s definitely raised a lot of eyebrows in a positive way for the game’s future.”

The hope is that the attention nationwide surrounding the U.S. cricket team will be sustained in the lead-up to the 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Advancement into the Super 8 round automatically qualifies the U.S. for the 2026 World Cup in India.

“The amount of exposure this world stage has given is a turning point on where cricket goes in this country,” Timbawala said.

Team USA’s current run, specifically the win over Pakistan, has marked a defining moment.

“This first round of competition has given us a lot of confidence, and hopefully we can take that momentum into the next round,” Patel said.

After qualifying following the cancellation of Friday’s game because of flooding in Florida, the U.S. team spent much of its time cooling down in preparation for travel to the Caribbean for the Super 8 competition stage. The spirited, emerging U.S. team will face another established powerhouse, South Africa, in Antigua on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s matchup will be the first of three for the U.S. as the tournament shifts to a round-robin format. The eight remaining teams are divided into two groups, and each team will compete against the other three in its group. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the semifinals.

England, West Indies and South Africa accompany the U.S. in Group 2.

“These guys have been working hard on their game for a long time, and getting an opportunity to showcase their talent and skills on the world stage has given them extra motivation,” Timbawala said. “It’s very satisfying to see.”

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