Major League Cricket signs two South Africans

Foundational Plan

USA Cricket and ACE’s Major League Cricket have a couple of new professional signings from South Africa in Willem Ludick and Carmi Le Roux. The announcement was made this week by their representation: The Sporting Agents, via Instagram and YouTube.

Willem Ludick, a South African right hand medium bowling, late-middle-order batting All-Rounder who represented South Africa during the 2016 U19 World Cup, moved to New Zealand when he was 19. “Willy” has played for Central Districts in New Zealand since 2018, where he went from setting the unenviable world record for runs conceded in an over to being named the Plunket Shield Player of the Year for 2019/2020, thanks largely to his 21 wickets at 2.66 an over in 11 innings. Ludick was the workhorse of the Central Districts bowling attack this season, leading the team in overs, maidens and wickets, and doing so in bulwark fashion, without a five-for to his name for the second place Stags. Willy has shown strong potential, in spite of his dubious world record. 

Carmi Le Roux is a tidy, left arm fast-medium bowler who represents Gauteng. Though injuries have chewed into his chances, Le Roux has performed well when healthy in white ball cricket, with 20 wickets in 16 innings and striking at an average of 16.35 with a steady efficiency of 6.2 runs per over. At 27 years old, Carmi recently lost his contract, and has turned to Major League Cricket to revitalise his career. 

In a recent discussion with his agent Christopher Cardoso, Willy was asked about the draw to the United States. “At the start I was a little bit speculative…in terms of not knowing much about US cricket and what’s going on,” started Ludick, “but as soon as the Major League owners and the people from the USA let me know what their plans were… in the way of future opportunities for me there, and what the actual contract was, it just made sense for me, for my family, and for my future…so without giving away too much, the whole picture just made sense to me.”

it appears that Ludick will be heading to the Houston Minor League team as one of Houston’s three permitted “professionals” this season. Houston has a Minor League Team, but isn’t listed as having a Major League franchise (though Dallas is listed for a Major League franchise). “My sister is in Houston… Houston is one of their hubs, and we managed to organise that I go there from the start,” said Ludick to his agent via the zoom style chat posted on Instagram. Cardoso followed with “I know it’s…distant if we look at…playing Test cricket for them, because we don’t know when they’ll sort of get there, but what’s your goals and ambitions…What’s the main goal to go to (USA)?” Ludick did not claim an international motive, instead offering “In a few years from now, I’d like to be a better cricketer, one, and be a bigger name and take on all the tournaments that come my way, and also set myself up for after cricket.” Ludick also cited university studies as a motive for the move.

Cardoso then emphasised that an important motive is that “(USA) is classified as an Associate Member…each and every T20 tournament around the world, barring I think IPL, need to contract Associate players… those opportunities just become more sort of attainable…a key one for players like yourself, you give yourself the opportunity to get into those tournaments a lot easier…because each team must contract those Associate players.”

The agent’s assertion is a little off the mark. Globally there are only two current professional leagues with reserved slots for Associates being Canada’s GT20 and the Caribbean Premier League, the latter’s $3,000 ICC Americas spot generating its own attention. We’ve seen players from the Netherlands, Nepal (and Afghanistan and Ireland pre-Full Membership) pick up contracts in some big leagues, but Associate eligibility is definitely no golden ticket. Otherwise, the likes of George Munsey and Ali Khan, both terrific T20 cricketers by any standard, would be much more widely known in franchise cricket around the world.

Carmi Le Roux also had a good chat with Cardoso, hinting at his openness to MLC back in May. Cardoso asked “Would you ever be one of the guys that is willing to…go elsewhere and make a career for yourself? Would you go abroad to, let’s call it America, and chase the Major League Dream, which they’re launching for next year…?” After expressing his life-long and ongoing dream to play for South Africa, Carmi replied “…I’m looking for different avenues, and the way cricket is going is those leagues around the world. I think throughout my career we’ve marketed myself as more of a white ball bowler, and that’s something I’ve worked quite hard on… I think it’s a great opportunity… obviously America, I think is a great opportunity.” 

With 24 Teams and each team permitted to carry 3 professional players, Minor League Cricket seems to have room for players with similar career arches to Carmi Le Roux and Willem Ludick. Though neither player mentioned a desire to represent Team USA internationally, one can only imagine an extended successful run in Minor League and Major League Cricket would certainly put them on USA’s radar, and at 27 and 23 years old, they will both be young enough to compete internationally at the end of three years. 

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