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Global Game: USA Cricket target Full Membership by 2030

By Emerging Cricket

USA Cricket made headlines as they announced a bold new vision to achieve Full Membership within a decade.

A 10-year strategy contained in the “Foundational Plan” outlines both long and short-term objectives for the USA Cricket administration, across both the on-field and operational sides of the organisation.

The first goal in international play is qualification for the 2022 ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup. While seemingly modest - there is only the Americas regional qualifier to overcome - it will be an early test of the administrative changes, as the USA youth side has not made it past their Canadian counterparts since the 2005 qualifier. As well as youth cricket, the women’s game is another area set to receive particular attention, with increased participation the first priority: currently sitting at 150-200 players nationally, female participation is two orders of magnitude lower than the male numbers. Modest returns at international level for the USA women’s team highlights the need for development.

On the home front, USAC plan to add two additional ODI-accredited venues by the end of next year. Along with the Lauderhill facility in Florida, these will form the basis of a planned joint bid with the West Indies to host a major ICC event within the 2023-31 cycle. The improved infrastructure will also be crucial to the upcoming Minor and Major League Cricket T20 franchise tournaments, which will underpin the American high-performance pathway over the course of the next decade. Taking their lead from the ICC’s T20-fronted development approach, USAC says they will “position T20 cricket at the centre of our plans”. This focus on the shortest format is also aimed at a potential bid for cricket in the 2028 LA Olympic Games, with T20 the preferred format of the IOC. Cricket’s admission to the USA Olympic Committee is a key administrative goal.

Romania come back from 1-0 down to take Balkan Cup

Romania hosted Black Sea neighbours Bulgaria in a four-match T20I series over the weekend. Originally slated to be a three-team tournament, the 2020 Balkan Cup was a bilateral affair after Serbia was forced to pull out due to coronavirus-related travel difficulties.

Smarting after a 4-0 defeat at home to Malta last month, Bulgaria started strongly with a comfortable win on Friday afternoon, but Romania recovered superbly to claim the series 3-1. Bakhtiar Tahiri was the architect of Bulgaria’s initial success, scoring 41 (36) from the middle order to lift the tourists to 128/5 after a sluggish start, then backing it up with 2/18 as Romania were dismissed for just 95.

On the Saturday double-header, Romanian skipper and opening bat Ramesh Satheesan led the way for the hosts, as he blasted a pair of fifties (and claimed both Player of the Match gongs). The morning game, shortened to 15 overs a side by rain, saw a 52-run home win after Satheesan’s 92* (50) took them to 148/2 and Bulgaria struggled to 96/6. Romanian cult hero Pavel Florin also made a cameo with the ball, claiming 2/10 in an eventful single over.

The afternoon game followed a similar script, with Satheesan thrashing 67 (32) from the top, before Vasu Saini blitzed 44* (16) to push Romania to 209/6. Dimo Nikolov was the pick of the bowlers with 2/27, but support was sorely lacking. In response, Bulgaria put up a fight, with Bakhtiar Tahiri striking five sixes on his way to 66 (44) after being promoted to open, but Saini made another telling contribution as his 1/22 off four overs helped strangle the chase; ultimately Bulgaria fell 34 runs short at 175/6.

Sunday’s decider was one-way traffic for the hosts, with seamer Shantanu Vashisht delivering a devastating spell of 3/11 to derail the top order and help bowl out Bulgaria for just 60 in the 15th over. Florin again stepped into the limelight as he dismissed last man Nikolay Nankov to wrap up the innings, before top-scoring with 14 in pursuit of the small target, which Romania reached inside 10 overs.

New countries added to Women’s World Cup pathway

Elsewhere in the Americas, neighbours Brazil and Argentina are set to continue their storied rivalry in the women’s arena on a new stage: the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Americas Qualifier. Previously a two-team playoff between Canada and the USA, the expanded tournament is currently scheduled for August 2021, and will be the first step for teams in the region towards qualifying for the 2022 ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa. The Americas qualifier was last held in 2019 with USA scoring a clean sweep against Canada, but Brazil, currently ranked No.27, will fancy their chances of progression agaisnt a USA side which is four spots below them in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s T20I Team Rankings.

The announcement was welcomed by Brazil skipper Roberta Avery Moretti.

In the Asia region, Bhutan and Myanmar were announced to be added to that region’s qualifier event to be hosted by Malaysia in September 2021.

USA Youth selection panel announced

In a busy week for the US, the national youth selection panel has also been announced, with former West Indies great Alvin Kallicharan the headline name. A two-time World Cup winner with Clive Lloyd’s legendary team, Kallicharan currently heads an academy in Raleigh, North Carolina, as well as serving as coach for the local Minor League team, the Morrisville Cardinals. Speaking to Emerging Cricket, he expressed his pleasure at being named on the panel: “It’s a nice surprise to me that they asked me to be involved. And if it will improve USA Cricket, it’s a good thing.”

Joining Kallicharan are several familiar faces within American cricket: ex-USA captain Steve Massiah from New York, former USA all-rounder Jannisar Khan of Houston, Sri Lankan domestic veteran Sajith Fernando (now based in Los Angeles), and long-serving national team selector Amer Afzaluddin, who will act as the panel’s chair.

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