The prospect of Major and Minor League Cricket in the USA has many a professional cricketer excited. Emerging Cricket speaks to David White, a former South African U-19 cricketer, who recently relocated to San Francisco to play cricket in the USA.
A strong right-handed batsman, White has been a cricket fanatic since his early days and made it through the school-level pipelines to represent his country in an Under-19 World Cup.
‘As a child, cricket captivated me immediately. I vividly remember bowling in the garden as Allan Donald or batting as Jacques Kallis and just trying to mimic my idols while begging my dad or younger brother to join in,’ says White.
‘That passion turned into representing my school and later on junior provincial teams. I was fortunate to attend some really good sporting schools and receive high quality coaching. My junior career culminated in being selected for the South Africa Schools team in 2009 and South Africa U-19s in 2010 that went to the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand.’
While he’s established a strong CV, White has had his fair share of ups and downs. He got his first taste of professional cricket in 2010 for Eastern Province, and made his way into the franchise circuit within two years. Injuries kept his career progression in check early on, but White was fortunate enough to play for South Africa A. The 29-year-old last played domestic cricket in South Africa close to three years ago, on the provincial circuit.
‘I made my debut for the Warriors franchise side in early 2012. I actually broke my hand in my debut match and had to wait another 18 months before I was selected again!’
‘I also represented South Africa ‘A’ in 2014 against Australia ‘A’ as well as South Africa Emerging against Sri Lanka Emerging in 2015. I made many good friends through cricket in South Africa and really enjoyed most of my time playing there. Although continual political involvement in the game definitely tested that enjoyment factor at times.’
White’s passion for the game has further strengthened over the course of the past three years. Coming to the US was something he had mulled over, and he committed to the move after hearing about the opportunities and growth of cricket. His determination to promote the game fuelled his drive. In addition, Team USA has ODI status, and the prospect of international cricket was also a key motivator.
‘I spent the 2018 and 2019 season playing for Ashtead CC in the Surrey Premier League and I was player-coach in grade cricket at Melbourne, for a club called Buckley Ridges CC. I played first-grade for the Frankston Peninsula Heat in the Vic Super Slam T20 tournament. I ended up scoring the most runs in the league in all four seasons.’
‘Collectively, these experiences definitely rejuvenated my love for the game,’ he says.
White has been lucky to find work in cricket in the USA whilst he plays domestically and spends time qualifying for the national team selection.
‘I was originally contacted about this potential opportunity in the early stages of last year but was then forced into lockdown at home in South Africa before eventually arriving on US soil in late October. I’ve completed an Honours degree in Business Management and I’ve always wanted to work in sport administration, and getting an opportunity to work in developing cricket (the second most popular sport in the world) in the largest sports market in the world, as well further my playing career at the same time was a ‘no-brainer’ decision for me.’
Even though cricket isn’t quite mainstream in the US, White marvelled at the potential of cricket in the US. For example, the AirHogs stadium in Dallas, which used to host minor league baseball, was acquired by USA Cricket in November in a significant coup. The coronavirus pandemic forced a postponement of the Major League to 2022, but that means there’s more time to carefully plan out a strong domestic structure to bolster the level of cricket. Neighbouring Canada, another associate nation, has hosted a T20 league of its own, and that’s garnered abundant viewership.
The Major League will be a pivotal juncture for the development of American cricket, and White, who is in an administrative role for the league, is eager to see what will be in store.
‘It’s a really exciting time for cricket in the USA. I believe the right people are on board and there have been some huge announcements of late regarding investment, facilities, a partnership with KKR etc. Administrators are in for the long haul, and we all believe that the USA is very much cricket’s sleeping giant, and there is a huge following of the game here.
‘Cricket needs to continually look to evolve and truly become a global game and I believe the USA will play a big role in making that a reality in the years to come. The Major League in 2022 will be a watershed moment for the sport in this country and I’m really looking forward to seeing it unfold,’ he notes.
White has confidently set his sights on qualifying for the USA, though he’ll have to complete the residence requirement.
‘I am on path to qualifying for the US national team (together with a number of other MiLC players who have relocated here). Most of these players are former full internationals or young players capable of really making a dent in the cricket world. It is a three-year residential qualification. I will be participating in the Minor League this year and hopefully in the inaugural Major league tournament next year.’
With eight years of priceless experience in South Africa and multiple seasons abroad, including 85 first-class matches and a multitude of dominant performances, White brings to the table plenty of willpower and expertise. It will only be a matter of when he will realise his international aspirations.
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