Indian and Pakistani cricketers band together for USA’s T20 World Cup dream

Co-hosts USA enter the T20 World Cup as outsiders but with a united multiracial dressing room that goes beyond cricket.

USA cricket team
The USA cricket team brings together players from South Asian, West Indian and South African roots [File: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP]

Captain: Monak Patel
Fixtures: Canada (June 2), Pakistan (June 6), India (June 12), Ireland (June 14)
Best finish at T20 World Cup: Debut tournament

For the best part of the last century, the world of cricket attempted to reignite a love for the game that was officially played for the first time in New York City in the 19th century.

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Cricket began in the United States earlier than in any other part of the world, according to archived references.

Now, the sport is making its way back to the US by handing it the co-hosting rights for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024.

Lining up under the country’s stars and stripes flag will be 15 men who call the US home, but come from diverse backgrounds. Eleven of the 15 belong to the bustling South Asian community of Indian and Pakistani heritage.

The two South Asian nations may be bitter rivals, but the acrimony goes out of the window when the players get together in the Team USA dressing room.

“The respect is evident,” USA’s coach Stuart Law tells Al Jazeera.

“They [players] are not representing India or Pakistan – or West Indies or South Africa – they are all fighting for the stars and stripes and they just want to put on a good show for the American people,” Law said.

“We are all from different backgrounds and cultures, but you wouldn’t know it,” he said.

USA will be led by India-born Monank Patel, while their standout pacer is Pakistan-born Ali Khan. The squad also boasts a former New Zealand superstar Corey Anderson who is known for his power-hitting and his record-breaking innings in 2014, when he set a new world record for the fastest one-day international (ODI) while still a New Zealand player.

‘An opportunity to ignite cricket’

Incidentally, USA have been drawn against both Pakistan and India in their T20 World Cup group.

Law, a former Australian international, says his job will be to remind the players to do well for the US against their countries of birth or of their ancestors.

The 55-year-old believes that if the cricket team are able to make “the people of America” see and enjoy their success, they would have done “a really good job”.

“It’s an opportunity to put on a real show to ignite [an interest in] cricket in this country,” Law said.

The former West Indies, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka coach took on the USA job a few weeks before the tournament but that has not stopped him from looking into the future of cricket in the North American country.

“The icing on the cake would be to have, in five to 10 years, an American-born, -raised and -trained squad playing for the USA. That would be an absolute dream come true.”

Law was initially brought in to help with the selection of the side but his role was gradually expanded until his appointment in April.

He admits that “there isn’t much structure” to how the players get together to train.

“If they want to go and hit balls, they need to get together and organise it themselves,” he revealed.

“They are basically semiprofessional players – a lot of them still have jobs so they play cricket when [they are] available or when the team needs them to.

“But to watch them be more professional than some of the out-and-out professionals I’ve seen work before was a pleasant surprise.”

The USA cannot be expected to pull too many surprises against the likes of India and Pakistan, but they did manage to shock another strong South Asian side in the weeks leading up to the World Cup.

The co-hosts beat Bangladesh 2-1 in their three-match T20 series.

Law knows his team “are not going to lift the trophy at the end of the World Cup”, but says it would be great if they can “cause a few scares” in their four group matches.

The other two teams in USA’s Group A are Ireland, another full member of the ICC, and their northern neighbours Canada, against whom they open their campaign and the tournament on June 1.

It was against the same opponents that USA played their first recorded cricket match more than a century ago and lost.

A memorable win in a rematch in the heart of the South Asian community in Texas that inaugurates their first ICC World Cup tournament may just be the fire that cricket in the US needs.

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[Al Jazeera]

Three players to watch

Corey Anderson: For the USA to capture Anderson was a massive coup given the powerful batter’s reputation with New Zealand. The left-hander broke the then-world record for the quickest ODI century in 2014, when he brought up the milestone off only 36 balls.

The 33-year-old, who moved to the US in 2021 where he has been a regular in Major League Cricket, has only recently qualified for the national team.

Monak Patel: Captain, wicketkeeper and a stalwart of Team USA, Patel will be a vital cog in their performances.

Born in Gujarat, India, the 31-year-old represented his state at under-16 and under-19 levels before moving to the US, for whom he made his debut in 2018.

Ali Khan: The fast bowler’s 3-25 against Bangladesh helped seal the three-match series and earned him the player of the match award.

The 33-year-old was born in Punjab, Pakistan and has enjoyed a long and established career in the Pakistan Super League and earned a contract in the Indian Premier League with Kolkata Knight Riders.

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[Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera