The Indian Connection in the USA’s stunning upset of Pakistan

USA Players in joy vs Pakistan
USA Players in joy vs Pakistan (PC: T20 World Cup/X)

It’s celebration time for USA cricket, and why not? For the team to shock Pakistan in a Super Over on Thursday was the mother, father and uncle of all upsets. There has been enough negativity about the US as hosts, since they are not a “cricketing nation”. People questioned the point of taking the World Cup to a country where the NBA, NFL, NHL and NAACAR dominate the sporting consciousness.

There is every reason to now congratulate the world body – the ICC – for staging the World Cup in a region where cricket is supposed to be non-existent. T20 cricket is no longer just about nations which have full Test status and a right to compete. The way smaller countries have embraced the format is well known, and evident from results in this World Cup.

The Friday headlines will only be about Pakistan being humiliated by the USA. Go through some of the marquee names in the Pakistan squad, and for them to lose in Dallas was shameful. They are being hauled over the coals. Gary Kirsten as coach was supposed to have a magic-wand effect. Instead, the USA team have added Pakistan’s scalp to their defeat of Bangladesh in a bilateral series last week.

Go through some of the names in the USA team, and at the top is J Arunkumar, the coach, who played first-class cricket for Karnataka. He was also part of the Mumbai Indians coaching staff before moving to the US. Fast bowler Saurabh Netravalkar, who took two wickets, is originally from Mumbai. The left-arm medium-fast bowler played under-19 cricket for India. Lest one forget, even Unmukt Chand, who led India to Under-19 World Cup glory in 2012, had moved to the USA after he realised there was no window of opportunity for him to play for India. He is not in the USA team, with more promising players pushing each other for selection.

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USA after winning vs Pakistan in ICC T20 World Cup 2024
USA after winning vs Pakistan in ICC T20 World Cup 2024 (PC: T20 World Cup/X)

Harmeet Singh was Unmukt’s teammate back, but he too now plays for the USA. Jasjeet Singh was born in Queens in New York but has Punjabi roots. And how does one forget Monank Patel, born in Anand, Gujarat who scored 50 on an eventful afternoon? Nitish Kumar, Indian by name, moved from Canada to the USA to showcase his cricket skills.

With such an Indian imprint on the results, there is palpable excitement about the India-USA match next week. “I can’t say for everyone, but as I have been part of the grassroots cricket in USA, it is a huge thing,” said Madhavachari Gopinath, an NRI who has lived in Boston the last three decades after graduating from Delhi University. “There is still a long way to go, but this showing will increase the respect for cricket in USA.

“There are lot of problems, but slow progress is being made. Even now the committee running the show has lots of improvements to do in the US. Cricket USA chief, coaches, playing facilities. For many of these, the sport has to become more popular, and for that reason, this (beating Pakistan) is a good start. As money in cricket is more, there is a possibility that it can overtake some of the other sports like soccer.”

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