It is almost natural that Vatsal Vaghela’s first exposure to cricket in California was at a baseball field, where cricketers had to wait for baseball players to finish and leave.
Cricket gave rise to baseball, although the offspring quickly adopted the parent as a summertime pastime for Americans. But hold back for a minute, baseball, because Vaghela and his teammates on the United States cricket team aim to reach their own kind. World series this week.
They need one more win on Friday to qualify for the Cricket World Cup for the first time.
In a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe, the US comfortably beat Jersey and Singapore in their first two matches. The award has a place in the T20 World Cup in Australia in October, and another win in the semi-finals would make it a win for the Americans. T20 stands for Twenty20, which is the shortest format of international cricket.
Through to the semifinals!!!
— USA Cricket (@usacricket) 12 July 2022
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“It’s very thrilling. We all know how important this tournament is.”
20-year-old Vaghela was born in Milpitas, California to Indian immigrants and his love for cricket was, unsurprisingly, instilled in him by his father. Cricket is small fry in Milpitas, located in Silicon Valley, but it’s the only sport that matters in India, so they went to a baseball park to play cricket.
Vaghela told the Associated Press in an interview, “I saw my dad playing tennis-ball cricket with his friends at the local baseball field, and I think I was 10 or so when I started playing cricket. Was 11 years old.”
Papa must have been a good coach as Vatsal’s 16-year-old sister Isani plays for the US women’s team.
Zimbabwe has stronger ties to cricket-loving countries than the entire US men’s team: Captain Monak Patel was born in India. Batsman Steven Taylor was born and raised in South Florida by Jamaican parents. Other players were born in or had ties to Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa.
Batter and America’s Vice-Captain Aaron Jones was born in Queens, New York. He is the Country Mets in the context of baseball. But Jones’ West Indian heritage dictated that there was only one game for him, and that was not at Shea Stadium. The Cricket World Cup was always the ultimate goal.
“For me, it’s everything. The World Cup is the biggest thing in cricket. For me growing up as a little guy, I’ve always wanted to play in the World Cup,” Jones said
“It’s a great opportunity right now. Definitely, it will be a great achievement, we’ve been talking about it for the past few years. It’s a big one not only for us, but for everyone back home in the USA There will be achievement,” said the vice-captain.
Well, it’s unlikely that “everybody” back home will care. Many would not even know. But it is time for the Americans to focus on cricket a little more, not just because the US team is closer to reaching the World Cup. After this, the next T20 World Cup will be co-hosted by the US in 2024.
There are two world cups in cricket. There is an older 50-over version, the Cricket World Cup, and a shorter 20-over version called the T20 World Cup. Games will be split between the US and West Indies in the 2024 T20 World Cup, the first major cricket tournament to be held in the US
Another American player, fast bowler Rusty Theron has a good cricketing outlook. He played for South Africa before moving to the US and qualified to play for the US in 2019. He saw cricket in the US “massively” over the years.
“(There’s) more media coverage, obviously, and some financial incentive for players to take up the sport. It’s something that’s worth buying for people looking to stay out of cricket, not just beyond the national team.” I think that’s the foundation,” Theron said.
“A lot of people don’t really know that cricket has been around in America for a long time, it’s a matter of trying to professionalize the talent we have now,” Theron said.
Theron is correct about the history of cricket in America as it was popular in the 1700s and 1800s and George Washington was reportedly a fan, and may have even played in a game once.
“When I talk about cricket with my friends, they have no idea about it. But once I introduce them to it, they become very interested. My roommate back in college loves watching cricket now, because I’ve talked to him about it,” said Vaghela, who is studying at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
And he can see Vaghela and America playing in the World Cup very soon.