Nitish Kumar, former Canada captain, helps USA complete sweep on debut

Nitish Kumar
former Canada captain Nitish Kumar now plays for USA internationally.

Former Canada captain Nitish Kumar scored a match high 64 from 38, and Corey Anderson earned his first USA half century (55 from 48), to help USA complete the sweep of rival Canada, four games to none on Saturday. 

Aaron Jones captained USA, as Monank Patel rested with the series decided thanks to Friday’s win. Taking the gloves from Monank, Andries Gous returned after resting on Friday. Gajanand Singh, Usman Rafiq and debutant Nitish Kumar would also come into the team, as Steven Taylor, Milind Kumar and Jessy Singh joined Monank in the dugout.

Nitish Kumar – History and destiny

On the fourth of August, 2008, 13 year old Nitish Roenick Kumar walked into the middle at Somerset Cricket Ground to open the batting for Canada at the Americas Under-15 Championships against the Bermudan hosts.

Born in Scarborough, Ontario, Nitish is a true Canadian product. His middle name, after all, is a tribute to National Hockey League star Jeremy Roenick. 

At the other end of the island nation, 21 miles away, 14 year old Floridian Steven Taylor would make his first appearance for USA against Cayman Islands at St. David’s County Cricket Club ground on the same day. 

The promising young debutants would help their teams to victory and then come face to face two days later.

Batting third for USA, Taylor would end his innings with 15 runs from 13 balls, courtesy of Nitish Kumar, putting USA in an early hole at 30 runs for three wickets. Nitish would take three more wickets on the day to finish with four for eleven runs, and USA would end all out for 104 after 37 overs.

Opening the batting in the chase, Nitish would also depart early with Canada at 12 runs for 2, bowled by none other than Steven Taylor.

For the next eleven years, the two would trade blows as Canada and USA would match up for U15, U19, One Day cricket, T20, World Cup Qualifiers, and Auty Cups.

Both stars would debut for their senior national teams as teenagers (Nitish at 15, Steven at 16), captain their respective national teams for a stretch, feature in the Caribbean Premier League and the Global T20, and prior to that 2008 matchup, play together for six games against Kenya, West Indies, Malaysia, Pakistan, Netherlands and Ireland for the “Americas Under-15s” in a tour of the Caribbean.

But some time after his final appearance with Canada in 2019, Nitish moved to Houston, Texas. While in Houston, Nitish has shone brightly for the Lone Star Athletics, where he led Minor League Cricket in runs in 2023 and helped his team into the Super Eights in the extremely competitive Central Division. Nitish was also drafted in the fourth round of Major League Cricket in 2023 by the Los Angeles Knight Riders, and was named one of LAKR’s retainers for 2024.

On Saturday April 14, 2024 at Prairie View Cricket Complex, 47 miles west of downtown Houston, Nitish Roenick Kumar would take the field against his former team. And just like American hockey legend Jeremy Roenick, Nitish would don the stars and stripes on an international stage against Canada.

Though Steven Taylor did not play, resting after thumping Canadian bowlers for the first three games of the series, one has to imagine that Nitish’s player of the match performance has earned him a spot in a team that would feature the two best North American cricket products of this century.

USA vs Canada 2024 – USA come back to complete the sweep

After Canada scored 23 runs from their first two overs, Saurabh Netravalkar finally broke through in the third. Bowling over the wicket, the left arm Netravalkar angled three deliveries straight across the right handed Wijeyeratne on a wider line at good length for dot balls. With the run rate now down to 9.20 from 11.5, Netravalkar changed sides to bowl from around the wicket. Wijeyeratne played across the line of an in-swinger at length, and the ball snuck around his hip, crashing into the off stump for the first wicket.

Aaron Johnson and Pargat Singh would take Canada to 44/1 at the end of the powerplay before Shadley Van Schalkwyk avenged a Pargat Singh four on the prior ball, cutting a full delivery off the surface and into the middle of the batter’s front pad for LBW.

Two anemic overs against Nisarg Patel would sandwich a rare 16 run ninth from Nosh Kenjige, with Nisarg collecting Aaron Johnson’s wicket once again to put Canada at 72/3 after 10.

On the final ball of the 12th, Nicholas Kirton would push a leg stump delivery from Usman Rafiq into the covers, taking off for a hopeful run, but Harsh Thaker never wanted it. Kirton, more than half way down the wicket, would fail to get back in time to beat the throw from Aaron Jones to Andries Gous, and Canada would slip to 91 for 4.

Gous would later fail to collect a throw on the short hop from Shadley, who had run in from deep square leg and beat Harsh Thaker with the throw on the first ball of the 14th. Thaker, over ambitious for two on the play, would survive and continue to build runs with Bajwa. Shadley would exploit Thaker’s aggression in the 17th, when after surrendering a six to a wider delivery on the third ball of the over, he’d stay wide and full with the fourth ball. Thaker would slap a low liner to Nitish Kumar at long off, and finish with 38 runs from 23.

Bajwa would hammer Rafiq for two fours and a six in a 15 run 18th over to take Canada to 147/5, and Canada would add another seven in the 19th against Netravalkar. Saad Bin Zafar would take the bull by the horns in the final over, with two fours against Shadley to close the final frame with 14 important runs, setting a target of 169 for the home team to chase.

USA would get off to a disastrous start, with Gous out LBW on the second ball to Rishvi Joshi, and Aaron Jones and Gajanand Singh falling on the first two balls of the second over to Saad Bin Zafar.

Jones jumped on an overpitched fourth stump delivery from Canada’s captain, driving the ball over long off. Dilpreet Bajwa took the catch at the extent of his reach while running to his right at the boundary, his momentum carrying him over the rope with the ball in hand, but umpires ruled that he had flipped it back into play and reestablished himself to catch the ball legally to retire the captain. On second look, it appeared that Bajwa’s foot was likely down over the boundary before the ball had left his hand, but it was ruled a wicket and Gajanand Singh came to the middle two down.

The veteran lefty was promptly dismissed with Zafar’s next delivery, stabbing at a wider fuller ball on his front foot, feather-edging it safely into Wijeyeratne’s gloves for the third wicket before USA could get ten runs into the chase.

There was a time not long ago when a target of 169 from a start of 9/3 after eight balls would have seemed a bridge too far for USA. But the calm presence of Anderson and Kumar, with 15 years of international experience between them, gave the feeling that the game was still far from determined.

The pair would steadily build a partnership of 104 runs, highlighted by a 16 run tenth over, where each would score eight. Trading sixes and singles, the pair found a rude way to welcome Zafar back into the attack for his first over since his double wicket second.

Anderson, happy to support Kumar’s fearless stroke play, would finally fall to Rishiv Joshi in the 14th over, bottom edging a flat bat attempt into the gloves of Wijeyeratne, but USA were well on their way at 113/4, needing 56 off of their final 40 balls.

Nitish Kumar would reach his first fifty for USA on the first ball of the 16th, after just 32 balls, his fourth overall half century in his unique T20i career.

After a six and a four, Nitish would sky Bhagwan Singh to mid off, and USA’s newest star would head to the dugout after scoring 64 runs from 38 balls while turning the game around firmly in USA’s favor.

Thaker would retire Shadley with the first ball of the 18th over, and Nisarg Patel would join Harmeet Singh to try and chase 27 more runs with 17 balls left to do it.

A 15 run 19th included a four from Nisarg and a six from Harmeet, and USA needed only nine to win in the final frame. Nisarg would send the second delivery of the 20th to the boundary for four, and the game would end on wide on the fifth ball, after a pair of singles had leveled the score.

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