Americans ready for Minor League Cricket Draft

Church Street Park on Saturday, October 3 2020

Minor League Cricket kicks off on July 31 this year, the first official season of what is currently the national domestic cricket competition for men in the USA. Originally scheduled to start in the summer of 2020, the official start was moved to 2021, and a brief exhibition season was played instead. 

Heading into the Minor League Cricket Draft on Friday, players around the country are eager to see their names on MiLC rosters. This rings especially true for players in Florida and Southern California. The six teams from these regions were unable to participate in the 2020 exhibition season, due to Covid-19 protocols in their areas.

David Pieters was named on the San Diego Surf Riders roster last season and followed the league while his team was amongst those grounded by the pandemic. ‘Was definitely a bit jealous seeing most of the other teams participate last year,’ Pieters told Emerging Cricket.  ‘We’ve put in some good work behind the scenes though so happy to get a chance to finally showcase it.’

Pieters, who was once on the cusp of USA selection, sees the league as another chance for players like him. ‘I definitely see this as an opportunity to get back in contention for the USA team. Given the fact that the MiLC competition is so strong with professional overseas players contributing to the mix, performances in the league will be highly regarded and will not go unnoticed. I am sure the USA selectors will keep a close eye on how the season unfolds. The MilC provides a central platform to evaluate a player’s ability.’

Minor League Cricket
David Pieters and Nisarg Patel meet Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs in 2017

Pieters is likely to see his name on the Surf Riders roster again this season when the teams are announced on Friday. Though the team didn’t play in 2020, strides were made in the San Diego area as a new turf square was installed

‘There is great talent in Southern California and San Diego and we’ve produced a number of USA players past and present in the region,’ Pieters continued. ‘We are fortunate to have good facilities and strong leadership as well. I know the competition will be tight, especially in this format, and we will have to execute as a unit, but I know we are definitely up for the task. Playing against other divisions across the board is very appealing to me, as different regions have different strengths and weaknesses and different approaches to the game. It provides me with a new challenge where I need to adapt to the playing styles and grounds, especially being a bowler, and in the end makes me a more well rounded player.’

In Florida, former USA U19 cricketer Dunae Nathaniel eagerly awaits draft results after trying out in front of selectors. ‘The tryout was awesome. Notice was given early and there was a great turnout of the best players in central Florida. I gave everything I had during the tryouts and I hope I impressed the selectors,’ The 34 year old Nathaniel told Emerging Cricket

To Dunae, MiLC represents ‘a launching pad and a great opportunity for a lot of local talent who may have been overshadowed in the past to showcase their talents and compete professionally amongst the best cricketers in the country. It is also a platform that the current U19 players can use to launch their career and to pursue cricket as a profession.’

Fellow Floridian and fast bowler Kyle Phillip became eligible for USA international selection during the pandemic. At 24 years old, the towering fast bowler is one of the quickest in the country. Having already represented the USA in the Super 50, and featured on the Edmonton Royals in Canada’s GT20, the pandemic has robbed a year from Kyle and players like him just when they’re starting to hit stride. 

‘This (MiLC) is big for me,’ Kyle told us. ‘Haven’t played much competitive cricket in an intense environment in a long time so I’m looking forward to this tournament. Can’t wait to get back out there with my teammates and just enjoy this game I miss so much. I also feel as though I still have so much left to prove and achieve.’

‘Being able to rub shoulders with some world class players Corey Anderson, Rusty Theron, these guys have loads of knowledge that could give us a sneak peak into what is required to play the highest level of cricket. For me, personally, when I get around those guys I ask a lot of questions and just be a sponge. Trying to learn as much as possible through their experiences.’

Florida might be the home of the nation’s first cricket stadium at Central Broward Regional Park, but there’s certainly a feeling of underrepresentation on the national stage. That sentiment has put a chip on the shoulder of local cricketers, which is especially apparent when discussing the topic of interdivisional play. 

‘In Florida there’s so much talent that hasn’t been seen yet,’ Phillips explains. ‘There’s the talk going around that our cricket isn’t the best but we are planning to change that narrative and show that we got great talent in the south! Now it’s up to us to showcase our talent. Down here we got guys who are capable of doing great things in key moments. Playing outside our division is what I’m most excited about.’

Nathaniel reinforces this emphasis. ‘I think the cricket quality in Florida gets overlooked all the time and people don’t realize how tough the competition is in central Florida and South Florida. Lots of talent and hopefully they will showcase themselves in the Minor League. The fact that you’re playing against teams in other divisions (in MiLC) means you will get to test your skills against different players around the country.’ 

Draft Day, June 4

Rosters will be determined this Friday night as the league announces draft results. The exhibition season of 2020 gave league architect Justin Geale and company a chance to sharpen the game plan for this first official rendition of Minor League Cricket. Below are the details of the roster composition rules and competition format for the 2021 Minor League Cricket season.

Each team is free to select nine players ahead of the draft. Among the nine will be one Wildcard player (can be a player from outside the USA), two Marquee players (“professionals” living in the USA, on the pathway to USA qualification), and three priority domestic players, as well as two under-21 (U21) and one under-19 (U19) players. These nine players will be approved by the league for each team prior to the draft.

When an aspiring player registers for the draft, they declare a preferred team. Priority Domestic Players can only be selected by the team a player names. Domestic players not selected prior to the draft are eligible to be drafted by any team in their draft region. 

Teams involved in the formal draft will then take turns drafting players listed within their regions until the rosters reach 18 players. Following the draft, and for the first few weeks of the season, teams will have a chance to supplement their rosters with up to two “Free Agents,” defined as any player not drafted by a team, regardless of where that player lives within the USA. Travel costs for these players must be covered by the club, on top of the fixed per-game fee, which could mean this option will be seldom utilized. The intent of the Free Agent spot is to give players who aren’t drafted in their region a chance to play for a team in a region where the talent might not be as strong. 

U-19 and U-21

The importance of inclusion of young players in MiLC has been much discussed since the 2020 exhibition season. Minor League Cricket seem to have adapted their rules slightly this season with hopes to ensure more opportunities for young players.

Every roster must have at least two U-21 players and one U19 player, and every playing eleven is to have at least one U-19 and one U-21.

Not every city features MiLC-ready talent in these age groups, and some hubs feature a surplus, so it’s likely that some teams will import players from other cities to fill these roles. Enforcement of these rules, along with players being able to play on teams in different cities where need is great, will guarantee that much of the top young talent in the country stays front and center, and also helps to level the playing field for teams in communities where youth cricket isn’t yet strongly developed. 

Minor League Cricket
Intensity builds in this Atlanta Param Veers and Morrisville Cardinals matchup in Minor League Cricket.

Fixed Per-Game Fees for Players

Outside of the Wild Card and Marquee Players, all other player fees are set at a specified amount, according to the player designation. This allows teams to compete with relative parity, and prevents wealthier owners from outbidding other teams for domestic players and stacking their rosters.

Fees sorted by player designation: 

  • Wild Card and Marquee Players (3 total)- undisclosed, negotiated between the team and the players. 
  • Priority Domestic Player (3 total) – $250
  • U21 (at least two) – $125
  • U19 (at least one) – $75
  • Domestic players (up to 9) – $125
  • Free Agents (up to 2) – $125, travel paid 

League Format and Schedule

Three new teams were added to this mix since the exhibition season, with St Louis Americans, Seattle Thunderbolts, and a yet to be named New York City franchise bringing the league to 27 teams. The inaugural rendition of Minor League Cricket will feature two conferences, with each conference split into two divisions:

Atlantic Conference

  • Eastern Division
    • DC Hawks**
    • Empire State Titans
    • New England Eagles**
    • New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers
    • New Jersey Stallions
    • New York City
    • The Philadelphians
  • Southern Division
    • Atlanta Fire
    • Atlanta Param Veers
    • Florida Beamers
    • Ft Lauderdale Lions
    • Morrisville Cardinals**
    • Orlando Galaxy

Pacific Conference

  • Central Division
    • Austin Athletics
    • Chicago Blasters
    • Chicago Catchers
    • Houston Hurricanes
    • Irving Mustangs
    • Michigan Cricket Stars**
    • St Louis Americans**
  • Western Division
    • East Bay Blazers
    • Golden State Grizzlies
    • Hollywood Master Blasters
    • San Diego Surf Riders
    • Seattle Thunderbolts**
    • Silicon Valley Strikers
    • SoCal Lashings

**Exclusive Draft Zone, not involved in a formal draft process.

Teams this year will play two weekends of inter-divisional games within conferences, an opportunity that wasn’t possible during the exhibition season, considering the pandemic. Champions of the two conferences will face off at Church Street Park on the first weekend of October for the Minor League Cricket Championship game.  

Stay tuned to Emerging Cricket for MiLC Draft results!

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