Four Minor League Cricket teams will make their debuts on Saturday, September 19, in the second weekend of Minor League Cricket’s inaugural exhibition season. Chicago Catchers, Chicago Blasters, Michigan Cricket Stars and Morrisville Cardinals all named rosters and schedules last week.
Michigan Cricket Stars feature former Bangladesh U-19 representative Shaker Amhed, Canadian T20 star and former captain Nitish Kumar, USA selection camp invitee Tirth Patel, and former India Indoor World Cup member Nikhil Kanchan. “Michigan cricket community is very excited and looking forward to the contest,” Kanchan told Emerging Cricket. “The team comprises of local players as well as some of the best players from the neighbouring states like Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Stoked to be a part of this team with such talents.” Along with the desire to help put the region on America’s cricketing map, Kanchan expressed excitement in playing alongside Canadian T20 star Nitish Kumar. “Having Nitish on board as wildcard is icing on the cake. He’s done really well for Canada over the years and having him with us is a good confidence booster.”
Many regional stars grace the Chicago Blasters roster, but USA national team opener Fahad Babar, former USA wicket keeper Asshar Medhi, current USA U-19 captain Joshua Kind and former USA captain and First Class world record holder Ibrahim Khaleel stand out most to fans of USA Cricket. “The team looks good, I’ve played with most of the players, I’m excited to play in Minor League,” Khaleel told Emerging Cricket. The Blasters feature many solid veterans, but also four teenagers. The presence of young players throughout the league is seen as a strength by the former USA Captain. “I think it’s a good opportunity for them to rub shoulders with senior players, it’s a learning experience for them and us also. It’s good for cricket for them to gain experience, and it’s really going to benefit our U19 players at the national level, to prepare them against senior players to go and compete against U19 qualifiers.”
Having a crosstown rival in the Chicago Catchers is another aspect Khaleel recognises as a plus. “I know a few of them. When you play (Chicago Catchers), you’ll always want to beat them, so it’s always going to be healthy competition.” Those Catchers look to challenge the Blasters as the best team in the city, and will put up a good fight with a talented team of their own. Canadian star Rizwan Cheema leads the way for the Catchers. Rizwan is a “very cool headed batsman even in the crunch times,” according to Khaleel. “Very smart bowler, mixes his deliveries with some cutters, depending on the wicket. Having him in the team, with his experience, will help them a lot!” Khaleel knows of Rizwan’s strengths first hand. The slugger belted one of the most memorable sixes in the Canada vs USA rivalry, smashing a last ball six off of Elmore Hutchinson into the night sky at the 2018 T20 World Cup Qualifier in Morrisville to send the game into superovers.
Playing their home games on the same ground where Rizwan belted that memorable maximum, the Morrisville Cardinals round out the four newest teams. Perhaps the most beautiful grass wicket ground in the country, Morrisville’s Church Street Park was originally scheduled to host the summer’s championship game. Morrisville’s overwhelmingly young Cardinals feature former Jamaica Tallawah Andre Dwyer, USA U-19 vice captain Sanjay Stanley, USA all rounder Roy Silva, and former USA vice captain and wicket keeper batsman Jaskaran Malhotra. Jaskaran moved to Morrisville six months ago, and he’s been practicing with fellow Cardinal and USA U-19 standout Sanjay Stanley since arriving. “Being in the national setup, coming into minor league, it helps a lot,” Sanjay told Emerging Cricket about practicing with his friend, the veteran wicket keeper batsman. “We’re a very young team, and we’ll have a lot of energy on the field. Our fielding will be a focus. It’s our first time in a pro setup.” The competition means a chance at starting off on a good foot for some, and a chance at revival for others. “For (Jaskaran), it represents a comeback into the national team, and for me it represents a chance to make a statement.”
Coaching the Cardinals is Windies and Warwickshire legendary batsman, Alvin Kallicharran. “Coach Alvin brings a lot to the table, 50,000 First class runs! Working with him, our team has learned a lot, and he’s already offered our youngsters a lot as well.” Kallicharran has long been a tremendous resource in the area, coaching young cricketers and offering advice and legendary anecdotes.
The Cardinals will face off against Atlanta Param Veers on September 19, and then a double header against Atlanta Fire on September 20. Michigan Cricket Stars debut against Chicago Blasters on September 19, and then Chicago Catchers on September 20.
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