It was 2005, and the very few people who cared about cricket in the USA were sent in shock waves on hearing that USA cricket was suspended from all cricketing activities by the ICC, on account of their board being dysfunctional. This was a major surprise, especially considering that USA played in the ICC Champions Trophy just a year ago.
Cricket is not recognised as a major sport in the USA and it falls below even High School Basketball in terms of viewership. But it may come as a pleasant surprise that this has not always been the case. In the 19th century, Cricket was the most popular bat and ball sport played in the USA, even ahead of baseball. Several counties from England visited the USA to play first class games. But as sports like American football popularised, Babe Ruth popularised baseball in the country, and DR. James Naismith invented basketball, the shorter lengths and more presence of superstars attracted people to these.
As popularity of cricket declined in the USA, it rose in the other parts of the world, majorly in South East Asia. With the popularity, the talent pool also increased. As the years passed by, the talent increased so much that it became difficult for countries like India to provide playing time to all its talent, even in the first class circuit.
This brings us to today, when we have seen a number of talented players from around the world, especially from India, shift to the USA to pursue their cricketing dream. If you look at the team USA scorecard today, you will feel it is just another Indian team playing. Most of the USA players today are Indian players who were not able to make it here.. Let’s look at some of the most high profile players to have shifted to the USA from India in recent years.
Smit Patel lived his dream of winning the U-19 World Cup title in 2012, and he played a crucial role with the bat in the final. Along with skipper Unmukt Chand, Patel added an unbeaten 130 runs for the fifth wicket against Australia to help India win the World Cup. Unmukt scored an unbeaten 111, while Patel stayed not out on 62. After the highs of the U-19 World Cup win, Patel didn’t have a smooth transition to the senior Gujarat side. He played U-22 cricket to earn his place in the senior team. However, he remained a second-choice wicketkeeper for Gujarat because of the presence of Parthiv Patel. In search of more matches as a wicketkeeper-batsman, Smit became a journeyman in domestic cricket.
He played for Gujarat, Tripura, Goa, and Baroda in the Ranji Trophy. His record in first-class cricket is not bad by any means. An average of 40 in 55 first class matches, including 11 centuries is a record that will get you into the national sides of most teams in the world but Patel was aspiring to play for one team in the world, where it was not enough. For reference, most of England’s top 3 averaged less than 40, before making their International debut. What many people might not know is that he was called up for a Rajasthan Royals selection camp in 2014 but he could not go. Rajasthan wanted one wicket-keeper and it was between him and Sanju Samson. Smit patel was actually a favorite over Sanju. But he could not go to the selection camp and the Royals went ahead with Samson. Smit was a green card holder of the USA, so it was easier for him to make the transition.
Another player who represented India at the Under-19 World Cup. He was in fact one of the best bowlers in the entire tournament in 2009. He went on to pick 9 wickets with a bowling average and economy of 17.22 and 3.11 respectively. This included the wickets of players like Joe Root, Ahmed Shehzad, and Hashmatullah Shahidi. Contrary to Smit patel, he did not taste much success in the domestic cricket in India, partly due to playing in a stacked Mumbai Squad.
After realising he does not have a future in cricket in India, he made the move to the USA. In the USA, Saurabh has already become a legend among cricket fans. He led the team to ODI status in 2019, and has not looked back since, picking up 24 wickets in 16 matches at an average of just 16.
Ardent IPL fans would be familiar with this name. Siddharth Trivedi was one of the best bowlers to have played for the Rajasthan Royals (RR). As a matter of fact, he is statistically still one of their most successful bowlers to have played for RR. The seamer played domestic cricket for Gujarat and Saurashtra and was also a part of 76 IPL matches. Despite having taken 65 IPL wickets, his IPL career went downhill in 2013. This is because the BCCI banned him for one year for not reporting a corrupt approach.
Siddharth was a known face in Indian first class circuit, picking up a combined 400 wickets across domestic circuit. Again, his numbers would have gotten him into the national squad for many other countries, but not India. Trivedi initially joined the ST Louis Americans (a club in America) as a coach but also started playing upon a request by the management.
The most popular name to have taken his talent to the USA in recent years, due to his exploits in the Under-19 World Cup in 2012 and his stint with Dehli Daredevils in the IPL. He did not have a bad record in domestic cricket, but it certainly did not stand out. Unmukt averages 35 in 48 matches in first-class circuit, 40 in 79 list A matches. He was also dropped from the Delhi side in the 2019 season. There was a misconception going around on social media that he was done wrong by the BCCI and that the Indian board destroyed his career, but that is not at all true. He was not consistent enough to get a call up to the national squad. He was almost selected to the Indian team in 2014, but he got injured just before the selection to the national squad.
These are just some of the players who have relocated to the USA to pursue their dreams.There was a recent report that over 30 players from India itself have shifted to the USA. But the question is – Why USA? A country with virtually no cricketing background, especially in recent years. The USA is obviously very rich as a country, so players will be able to earn more playing here, than playing in their country.
The new Major League Cricket introduced seems to have a bright future. The USA is a thriving sports market that is rapidly increasing its interest in cricket. And unlike many other countries, players can play for the national squad 2 years after moving there. So players’ dream to play International cricket can also be fulfilled. While playing the Major league during the season, players can also play in T20 leagues around the world during the off season. And for the USA, they can get the type of talent playing for them that they will certainly not be able to produce.
So this is a win-win situation for both the players and cricket in the USA. Many players from around the world are also following Indians and shifting to the USA to play cricket, with Corey Anderson being one of them. Don’t be surprised if you see the USA playing in the 2027 World Cup with an all world team. That will truly conclude the USA revolution in cricket.