T20 World Cup: USA show leads impact of Associate Nations in tournament | Crickit
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T20 World Cup: USA show leads impact of Associate Nations in tournament

Jun 18, 2024 09:10 PM IST

While the co-hosts made it to the Super Eights, Scotland, Nepal and Netherlands too had their moments in the first round

Whether fringe teams should be part of World Cups is a debate that will go on, this T20 World Cup has showed that no team can be taken lightly in the shortest format. The initial group stage will be remembered as much for the unfancied sides making a statement.

United States' Aaron Jones, centre, walks with team members before an ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match against Ireland at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Lauderhill, Fla., Friday, June 14(PTI)
United States' Aaron Jones, centre, walks with team members before an ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match against Ireland at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Lauderhill, Fla., Friday, June 14(PTI)

United States of America stunned Pakistan with a Super Over win that carried them into the Super Eights, while Nepal, Scotland and Netherlands – all ICC Associate Nations like the co-hosts – made a mark against Test teams despite not making it to the second round.

In T20 cricket, pre-match predictions often go for a toss. Two good overs can change the course of the game and where momentum is harder to stop, giving the smaller teams the best chance of causing an upset.

And, if you have challenging pitches, the gap between the teams narrows down further. Most upsets came in low-scoring games. USA beating all odds to reach the Super Eights was the story of the first round.

A crazy fan following has boosted Nepal cricket and Scotland and Netherlands have a solid structure for the game, but what is helping USA cricketers compete with the world's best professionals? USA spinner Harmeet Singh, a former Mumbai spinner, says a revolution in the game is happening in America which the cricket world may not be aware of.

“The competition here is a lot more than what people guess. Major League Cricket is world class, but we have four-five other big open tournaments -- Houston Open, Atlanta Open, Unity Cup and US Open. The best of the best from around the world will come and play. Whoever is not playing franchise cricket, including (some) current Pakistan, West Indies and England players. We have a lot players from New Zealand. Martin Guptill and Colin Munro play in the same team which I play for -- Dallas Xforia Giants, owned by a local franchise, Kingsmen. They have employed me to play all local tournaments other than the major and minor league for them,” says the Houston-based Harmeet.

He equates the level of competition to the A division games in Mumbai or Chennai. “The Houston league is like we have A division corporate matches. There are about 16 teams, always high-quality cricket, eight teams are equally good, can defeat anyone,” says Harmeet, who was the first pick for MLC side Seatle Orcas, which also has Heinrich Klaasen, Imad Wasim and Quinton de Kock.

Harmeet is making a comfortable living as a full-time cricket professional and has also set up his cricket academy in Houston. Matches are at the weekends and his routine from Monday to Thursday is the “cricket academy. In the morning I go to the gym, after lunch I practice for two hours; do coaching for four-five hours and come back at 9.30.”

“Now it is growing, kids are excited, they’ve guys to look up to. There s a lot of potential.”

In the Super 8s, USA will face West Indies, South Africa and England. Their prize money will jump by at least $150,000.

NEPAL

Nepal finished at the bottom of Group D alright, but the passionate cricket nation had their moment on the global stage when they gave South Africa a scare, agonisingly losing by one run.

“Just as a cricket fan, I would say Nepal have left their footprint with that game, to let the Test nations know that they belong. I have strong belief in this class of 2023, the players who have come together,” Nepal coach Monty Desai said.

“Most of their players practice in India, someone will be in Delhi, someone in Uttarakhand,” said Gokul Bista, a former Mumbai University keeper-batter, who hails from Sudur Paschim province in Nepal and has helped arrange exposure games in Mumbai for the Nepal team.

“They have a crazy cricket following. Because of crowd only ICC is providing so much support to Nepal. Earlier, it was only football but now cricket is growing, lot of work is being done at grassroots level. There’s school cricket in every province. Dhangadhi, which is a district headquarter, is called the city of cricket. It holds the popular Dhangadhi Premier League,” said Bista, whose son is Mumbai opener, Jay Bista.

SCOTLAND AND NETHERLANDS

Unlike Nepal though, Scotland have the infrastructure and an established club structure. Many famous cricketers have come from Scotland, the most notable being former England skipper, the late Mike Denness. Scotland are regulars at ICC events. They are a seasoned side and if any team lowers its guard, they can hurt them. They were again competitive at this World Cup, finishing joint second on points (5) with England in Group B, edged out on net run-rate. While they split points with England after rain intervened, they ran Australia close in their final league match after scoring 180/5.

“The guys can hold their heads high. It’s great learning for us... We’re disappointed, being in the position we were in. We set out when we came here to go through to the next stage but, unfortunately, we haven't quite done enough to do that this time around,” Scotland captain Richie Berrington said after the heart-breaking defeat in the last over to Australia.

Though there’s not enough money for players to turn full professionals, Netherlands also have a decent foundation for their players to be competitive against Test teams. Regulars at ICC events, Indian fans would remember their spirited show at the 2023 ODI World Cup.

Former Mumbai batter Amol Muzumdar, who is familiar with Dutch cricket from his stint as player and coach towards the end of his first-class career, had said in an interview that “it is quite competitive in top-class cricket in Netherlands.”

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