India’s abundance of talent may see the country losing out on some exciting prospects as the exodus of players worldwide to the gradually expanding United States cricketing empire continues to make waves.
Former Pakistani batsman Sami Aslam, who has recently shifted his base to America, claims that three former India Under-19 players – Unmukt Chand, Smit Patel and Harmeet Singh – are among up to 40 foreign cricketers who have recently looked into a future playing in the country.
Chand, an opening batsman who led India to the 2012 Under-19 World Cup, scoring a century in the final, was once described as the nation’s “next big thing.” Patel is a 27-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman who has played for Gujarat and Baroda, and Harmeet a left-arm spinner once likened to the legendary Bishen Bedi.
The idea may have some appeal among those in India who are struggling to feature at the top level in a system that has become increasingly competitive in recent years or because of selectorial ambivalence, something that prompted Aslam’s switch of allegiances.
An added attraction is that J Arunkumar, who led Karnataka to back-to-back domestic trebles in 2014 and 2015 and acted as a batting coach for the Punjab Kings in the IPL, was handed a two-year contract as the US’s head coach in April last year.
Chand has responded to the reports by claiming his trip to the US was to visit family, while there has been no word so far from the other two.
Chand told the Indian Express: “I had gone to the USA to visit my relatives, and of course when there, I went for a bat or two — just to practise. I have done nothing like signing anything in the USA. This trip is nothing but a leisure tour.”
In February, Guerilla Cricket reported claims that a number of Sri Lankans were thinking of emigrating to the US because of disenchantment with the authorities in their home nation over proposed pay cuts and selection issues. All the players named in that report, from the Sri Lankan website, The Morning, denied any involvement, and the claims of an unidentified source that there would be two mass departures, first emerging players and then national, appear not to have come to pass.
However, the United States Cricket Association admitted late last year that it was keen to accelerate the process of qualifying for World Cups and World T20s in order to become an ICC full member by 2030. Its chief executive, Iain Higgins, appeared to offer an open invitation to overseas cricketers when he said that there would be times when players would come into the team “because they have a passport or have qualified on residency grounds”.
Aslam, who has played 13 Tests and four ODIs for Pakistan, reckons the exodus from his own country could be even more pronounced. The 25-year-old left-handed batsman, who moved after being overlooked by selectors one too often, claimed he had been contacted by more than 100 players in Pakistan about the practicalities of relocating to the US.
He told PakPassion.net: “I guarantee you that any Pakistani player who is not centrally contracted will want to settle in America and play cricket here. I have had calls from over 100 first-class players in Pakistan exploring the possibility of them settling in America. Even the best performers currently in Pakistan domestic cricket are keen to move here.”
Aslam himself, is unlikely to be able to play for his adopted country much before November 2023 and if the exodus becomes as considerable as he suggests – Australians, South Africans and West Indians are among those either already tapped up or exploring the possibility – might find his opportunities restricted by rivals.