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ODI status is spurring an ambitious recruitment drive by USA Cricket that could eventually to it fielding active internationals from around the world. That is part of a strategy with its commercial partner ACE (American Cricket Enterprise) to bring in professionals for its Minor and Major Cricket league setup, eventually putting players – potentially the likes of Sami Aslam and Corey Anderson – on a three-year residency path to switch allegiances and represent USA internationally.

Pakistan Test opener Aslam has been the most recent target of such efforts while multiple sources have indicated that New Zealand allrounder Anderson is another, potentially as a marquee player for the Major League T20 franchise based in Dallas. Anderson has not been picked for New Zealand in more than two years and has spent most of the Covid-19 pandemic in Texas, where his fiancée is based. According to sources, he has been spotted over the northern summer at local cricket matches around Dallas and has not played any part for Auckland in the Plunket Shield nor the Ford Trophy at the start of the 2020-21 New Zealand domestic summer.

The Major Cricket League’s plans have received a shot in the arm recently, with the news that the Knight Riders Group – owners of Kolkata Knight Riders and Trinbago Knight Riders – will invest in it, as well as own a franchise

“It’s about the long-term sustainability of developing the sport in this country,” USA Cricket CEO Iain Higgins told ESPNcricinfo earlier this year, ahead of the launch of Minor League and Major League Cricket initiatives.

“It’s a balancing exercise. In an ideal world, we would have our entire squad made up of people who had been born in the USA, learned their cricket in the USA, had got into the junior pathways, represented USA at age group cricket, graduated, got selected into the minor league team, became a professional in the major league team, and then eventually get selected to play for the national team. That’s where we’re trying to head to. It’s a question of how we get there from where we are right now.

ALSO READ: Knight Riders Group buy stake in Major League Cricket

“We want to win cricket games. We want to qualify for World T20s, we want to qualify for World Cups. We want to win cricket matches. By winning cricket matches, we’re able to – we don’t do this very well at the moment but we need to do this better – we build heroes and role models that are wearing the stars and stripes, and we need to amplify those stories. Sometimes those will be people who have come through the US and sometimes those will be people that come into the team because they have a passport or have qualified on residency grounds. But we want the USA team to be in the forefront of the international cricketing community’s minds.”

Sameer Mehta, ACE co-founder, confirmed in a recent press conference that some players had already relocated to the US. But the plan is for any such arrangement to go beyond just appearing in the national side.

“We just want to make sure that cricketers who relocate to the US are doing it for the right reasons,” Mehta said. “In most cases, they’re doing it to help grow the sport in the US, which means coaching in our academies, playing in the local leagues and of course playing international cricket. I think we’ll be in the unique place where we’ll have international-quality cricketers who will relocate to the US and play in our local leagues and be part of the fabric of the local community.”

Rusty Theron made his USA ODI debut in September 2019 following a three-year residency qualification period, since when a slew of former South Africans have also been targeted. With CSA pushing for tougher transformation targets over the next few years which could limit the number of white South African cricketers in the national side to four, that could be fertile ground. ESPNcricinfo understands at least four young South African players are close to signing for the league.

Theron retired from South African cricket and moved to Florida to pursue a teaching degree before rekindling his professional career through USA’s T20 club scene. He ultimately ended with a USA Cricket central contract. Theron’s route, however, may become increasingly rare.

Dane Piedt was specifically recruited by ACE to come to the USA and given a contract earlier this year. Similarly, 23-year-old allrounder Willem Ludick – who represented South Africa at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup before playing in the last three Plunket Shields, was convinced to leave New Zealand for an ACE contract in Texas, despite being the second highest wicket-taker in the competition this past season for Central Districts. With the Kolpak route to the UK soon to be curtailed after Brexit, USA has fast become an appealing option to South Africans looking to earn good money, with contracts reported to be in the $100,000 range.

Overseas American passport holders have also become prioritized targets over local players in the last two years. Aaron Jones, Hayden Walsh Jr, and Karima Gore were plucked from Barbados and Antigua in the build-up to USA securing ODI status in 2019. Subsequently, the Australian trio of Cameron Gannon, Cameron Stevenson and Ian Holland have all made USA debuts in the last year. Attempts have also been made to recruit 2019 World Cup winner Liam Plunkett, whose wife is from Pennsylvania where the England bowler regularly spends his winters and he could potentially secure a US passport through her.

While the strategy means a new earning outlet for long-time overseas pros, it poses a potential obstacle for domestic talent to be able to work their way through a local pathway to the national team. At the moment, the only regular in the USA men’s national team who has come up through the USA U-19 system is Florida native Steven Taylor.

Higgins said that ACE and USA Cricket established guaranteed roster slots for USA junior players in Minor League squads in the hopes they will enhance their skills to the standards comparable to what is seen overseas. However, Higgins said it would be naive for USA not to pick professional players brought in by ACE once they meet ICC eligibility criteria.

“It’s very much our objective to invest now in the U-17s so that in two years time we have a very strong Under-19s team that we can go to a group qualifier for and go to the Under-19 Cricket World Cup and perform extremely well there,” Higgins said. “Of course if people are performing at that level, whether or not another ten Rusty Therons turn up, then there’s no reason why they would not get picked in the national team two or three years from now.

“We’d like nothing more than a national team to come from people who have all been born here in the USA and learned their cricket here. We’ve just got to be careful about picking the right balance. If someone has got a passport or someone has come and they meet the ICC regulations, then they meet the regulations. There’s probably not a team in the world at the moment that don’t want to pick their best team in accordance with the ICC regulations.”





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Eng vs SL 2021 – Jos Buttler ruled out of Sri Lanka white-ball series with calf injury

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Dawid Malan added to ODI squad after MRI scans reveal small calf tear

Jos Buttler has been ruled out of the rest of England’s white-ball series with Sri Lanka. Buttler sustained a calf tear in Wednesday’s first T20I and will now return home to commence his rehabilitation.

Buttler, England’s vice-captain and wicketkeeper, scored an unbeaten 68 opening the batting in the first T20I. According to the ECB, he “felt tightness and discomfort” at the end of the game and was sent for an MRI scan on Thursday morning, which revealed a small tear. He sat out the second T20I, which England won by five wickets.

England had already suggested they may use the Sri Lanka T20Is to experiment, with Jonny Bairstow moving up to open in Buttler’s absence – although he made a three-ball duck as England initially struggled in their chase of 112. Liam Livingstone, whose unbeaten 29 helped secure victory, regularly opens in T20 cricket and could also deputise.



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ENG vs SL 2nd T20I – Mickey Arthur on England and Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka’s head coach said he wants the batsmen to be more proactive against a world-class England attack

Mickey Arthur has urged his Sri Lanka side to stay patient after they slipped to a second defeat in as many nights in Cardiff, leaving them on a run of 11 defeats in their last 12 completed T20Is dating back to October 2019.
Opting to bat first in both games after winning the toss, Sri Lanka posted scores of 129 and 111, and while they came much closer to defending their total on Thursday night than in Wednesday’s eight-wicket pasting, they always looked a long way short of a par score, failing to hit a boundary in the powerplay for the first time in their T20I history. Arthur, Sri Lanka’s head coach, stressed at the start of the tour that he wanted to add a level of consistency to selection following a turbulent period of chopping and changing, and that it would be important to “nail down the guys’ roles” in this series.
Dasun Shanaka, with scores of 50 and 8 from No. 7, is their leading run-scorer in the series, with Danushka Gunathilaka and Avishka Fernando – backed as opening options for the long term – both struggling to make an impact at the top of the order. Their lack of attacking intent with the bat came under scrutiny on Thursday, but while Arthur suggested that they could be “more proactive” in future, he said that there had been limited opportunities to score against a “world-class” England side on a slow, two-paced pitch being used for the second night in a row.



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England vs Sri Lanka T20Is – Liam Livingstone makes virtue of versatility in pitch for England World Cup role | Cricket

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Liam Livingstone has enhanced his World Cup claims with two important displays © Getty Images


Teams can take a squad of 33 players to cover 15 starting positions in rugby’s next World Cup, and 23 for 11 spots in football’s, but cricket diverges from the norm. England will take a 15-man squad to the T20 World Cup this winter – albeit with the possibility of a couple of reserves as a Covid precaution – and as a result, the ability of back-up players to cover a range of roles is crucial.

With that in mind, Liam Livingstone has done his chances of inclusion no harm at all in the first two games of their T20I series against Sri Lanka in Cardiff. An innings of 29 not out off 26 balls and four tight overs of liquorice-all-sort spin that have cost 19 runs do not demand retention in themselves, but have demonstrated the flexibility that Livingstone would add to a touring party as a utility player.

“It’s something that I pride myself on, being as versatile as I can,” he said after the second T20I, in which he won the match award after steering England home from No. 6. “It’s something that’s rolled into my bowling as well, trying to bowl both legspin and offspin to give people different options [and] it’s the same with my batting, trying to make myself a player who can bat all the way from No. 1 to No. 8.”

While he has made a reputation for himself as a power-hitter who deals in sixes – in last year’s Big Bash, he scored a higher percentages of his runs in sixes (39.4%) than anyone else in the top 25 run-scorers – Livingstone’s innings on Thursday night demonstrated his willingness to adapt, with a single ramped six standing out alongside a series of clips and pushes into gaps to suit the situation and build a partnership with Sam Billings. Four years on from a pair of frenetic innings in his first two T20Is, he looked a different player.

Importantly, given England’s logjam of top-three options, it also demonstrated an ability to bat in the middle order. Twenty-five of Livingstone’s last 26 innings in domestic T20 cricket for Lancashire and Perth Scorchers have come as an opener, with Jos Buttler even moving down to No. 4 in order to accommodate him at the top in this year’s T20 Blast, but there is little chance of him batting there in an England shirt.

While he will have limited opportunity to do so before the start of the World Cup, Livingstone should consider shuffling down the order for one of his clubs if he can – potentially for Birmingham Phoenix in the Hundred – in order to gain more experience in the role, though batting in the middle order for Peshawar Zalmi and Cape Town Blitz two winters ago meant he had something to lean back on.

“I batted at No. 4 and 5 in the PSL and in the South African T20 [MSL],” he said. “I guess that’s the reason I go away and play in these competitions: trying to get experience of batting in different roles, which has obviously helped me coming into an England side, batting in a position I’m not really used to.”

But it is with the ball that Livingstone is particularly multi-talented, as he has demonstrated in this series. He generally bowls legbreaks to right-handers and offbreaks to left-handers, and while not a prodigious turner of the ball, he gets enough spin both ways to keep batters guessing and forcing them to watch him carefully out of the hand.

“It’s certainly advantageous isn’t it?” Buttler said after Wednesday night’s game. “It’s a fantastic skill to have, to be able to bowl offspin and legspin to international standard. We will potentially see that come into the game more and more. He’s an exciting package, a great guy to have in your squad and your XI.”

Livingstone is not the finished article with the ball. Two of the three most expensive overs of his T20 career have come at crunch moments, confirming Lancashire’s exits in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the last two Blast seasons when Ravi Bopara and Dan Christian took him down, but he insisted that those experiences have been beneficial in the long run.

“[My bowling] has always been well-regarded at Lancashire,” he said. “I’ve obviously had a couple of tough moments with it over the last couple of years, but they are the moments that have made me a better bowler. It’s something I’ve worked hard on for this sort of opportunity, to push my way into a team as someone that can offer something in all three facets of the game.”

As an excellent outfielder too, Livingstone’s case for inclusion in the World Cup squad is strong: even if he is unlikely to start once Ben Stokes returns from injury, the fact he offers some overs as a second – or even third – spinner, can cover a number of batting roles and is a good option to come on as a substitute fielder mean that he has quickly become England’s Mr Versatile.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98


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