US cricket team one win from reaching first World Cup

Jul 11, 2022, 10:30 PM | Updated: Jul 12, 2022, 10:31 am
United States cricket players walk off the pitch after beating Singapore by 132 runs in a cricket W...

United States cricket players walk off the pitch after beating Singapore by 132 runs in a cricket World Cup qualifier match in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Tuesday, July, 12, 2022. The U.S. has advanced to the semifinals in Zimbabwe of a qualifying tournament for the T20 World Cup in Australia in October. One more win, and the Americans are in. (AP Photo/KB Mpofu)

(AP Photo/KB Mpofu)

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (AP) — It’s almost natural that Vatsal Vaghela’s first exposure to cricket in California was at a baseball field, where cricketers had to wait for the baseball players to finish and leave.

Cricket gave birth to baseball, though the offspring quickly eclipsed the parent as the summer pastime for Americans. But step back for a minute there, baseball, because Vaghela and his teammates on the United States cricket team aim to reach their own kind of World Series this week.

They need one more win on Friday to qualify for a cricket World Cup for the first time.

The U.S. has easily beaten Jersey and Singapore in its first two games at a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe. The prize is a place at the T20 World Cup in Australia in October, and another victory in the semifinals will clinch it for the Americans. T20 stands for Twenty20, the shortest format in international cricket.

“It’s very exciting. We all know how important this tournament is,” Vaghela said.

The 20-year-old Vaghela was born in Milpitas, California, to Indian immigrants and a love of cricket, unsurprisingly, was passed down to him by his father. Cricket is small fry in Milpitas, located in Silicon Valley, but it’s the only sport that matters in India, so down to a baseball park they went to play cricket.

“I picked it up just watching my dad play tennis-ball cricket with his friends at the local baseball field, and I think I was, like, 10 or 11 when I started playing cricket,” Vaghela told The Associated Press in an interview.

Dad must have been a good coach because Vatsal’s 16-year-old sister, Isani, plays for the U.S. women’s team.

The connection to cricket-loving countries is strong throughout the U.S. men’s team in Zimbabwe: Captain Monank Patel was born in India. Batter Steven Taylor was born and raised in south Florida by Jamaican parents. Other players were born in or have connections to Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa.

Batter and U.S. vice-captain Aaron Jones was born in Queens, New York. That’s Mets country in baseball terms. But Jones’ West Indian heritage dictated there was only one game for him, and it wasn’t at Shea Stadium. The cricket World Cup was always the ultimate goal.

“For me, it’s everything,” Jones said. “The World Cup is the biggest thing in cricket. For me growing up as a little man, I always wanted to play in World Cups.

“This is a great opportunity right now. Definitely, it will be a big achievement, we’ve been talking about it over the past couple of years. It will be a big achievement not only for us, but for everyone back home in the USA.”

Well, it’s unlikely that “everyone” back home will care. Many will not even know. But this is the time for Americans to take just a little bit more notice of cricket, not just because the U.S. team is close to reaching the World Cup. The next T20 World Cup after this one will be co-hosted by the U.S. in 2024.

Cricket has two World Cups. There’s the older 50-over version, the Cricket World Cup, and the shorter 20-over version called the T20 World Cup. The 2024 T20 World Cup will have games split between America and West Indies, the first major cricket tournament to be staged in the U.S.

Another U.S. player, fast bowler Rusty Theron, has a good cricket perspective. He played for South Africa before moving to America and qualifying to play for the U.S. in 2019. He’s noticed cricket take off in the U.S. “in a big way” in the last few years.

“(There’s) more media coverage, obviously, and some financial incentives for players to take up the game,” Theron said. “It’s something that’s tangible for people to buy into, beyond just the national team, but making a living out of cricket. I think the foundation is there.

“What a lot of people don’t really know is that cricket has been around in the U.S. for a long time, it’s now just a matter of trying to professionalize the talent we do have.”

Theron is right about cricket’s history in the U.S. because it was popular in the 1700s and 1800s and George Washington was allegedly a fan, and might even have played in a game once.

“When I talk about cricket with my friends, they have absolutely no clue about it,” said Vaghela, who is studying at University of California Santa Cruz. “But once I get them introduced to it, they get so interested. My roommate back in college absolutely loves watching cricket now that I’ve talked to him about it.”

And he might even get to watch Vaghela and the U.S. appearing in a World Cup soon.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani, left, taps gloves with Max Stassi at the end of ...
Associated Press

Mariners score 4 in 9th after Ohtani departs, top Angels 6-2

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Angels star Shohei Ohtani struck out eight and allowed two runs in six innings, before the Seattle Mariners scored four runs in the ninth and took advantage of shoddy fielding to beat Los Angeles 6-2 on Monday night. Jesse Winker and J.P. Crawford each had two hits and two RBIs for […]
23 hours ago
San Francisco Giants' Evan Longoria (10) celebrates with J.D. Davis (7) after hitting a two-run hom...
Associated Press

Longoria, Cobb power San Francisco to 6-1 over Diamondbacks

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer and Alex Cobb pitched six solid innings to lead the San Francisco Giants to a 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night. The Giants are 18-2 at home against Arizona since the start of the 2020 season. San Francisco took control and broke […]
23 hours ago
Atlanta Braves' Michael Harris II (23) is put out at first base by New York Mets first baseman Pete...
Associated Press

Contreras, Rosario, Acuña lead Braves’ blowout win over Mets

ATLANTA (AP) — William Contreras and Eddie Rosario hit back-to-back homers off Carlos Carrasco in the second inning, Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled three times and drove in three runs, and the Atlanta Braves routed the New York Mets 13-1 Monday night for their seventh straight win. The second-place Braves moved within 4 1/2 games of […]
23 hours ago
Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Julio Urias throws during the first inning of a baseball game ...
Associated Press

Urías, Dodgers blank Brewers 4-0, continue 2nd-half surge

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Julio Urías continued his career-long pattern of shutting down lineups after the All-Star break. The NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers hope he can stay hot all the way through the postseason. Freddie Freeman and Gavin Lux homered to back Urías’ five solid innings, and the Dodgers blanked the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0 on […]
23 hours ago
Texas Rangers' Marcus Semien runs the bases after hitting a solo home run off Oakland Athletics sta...
Associated Press

Rangers win 3rd straight, top A’s 2-1 after Woodward firing

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Marcus Semien homered, rookie Bubba Thompson had a tiebreaking RBI single and the Texas Rangers won a one-run game only hours after manager Chris Woodward was fired. With Tony Beasley managing his first big league game, after being named the interim manager for the final 48 games of the season, the […]
23 hours ago
Chicago White Sox's Eloy Jimenez hits a two-run double during the eighth inning of the team's baseb...
Associated Press

Moncada, Cueto lead White Sox past Astros 4-2

CHICAGO (AP) — Johnny Cueto kept going after a tough start — long enough for Yoán Moncada to deliver a big hit. Moncada lined a tiebreaking two-run single in Chicago’s four-run eighth inning, and the White Sox beat the Houston Astros 4-2 on Monday night for their fourth straight win. Chicago (60-56) moved four games […]
23 hours ago
US cricket team one win from reaching first World Cup