Five players to watch
Minor League Cricket exhibition matches are set to begin all over the US this weekend. Smit Patel reports on some of marquee international players to watch out for in the coming weeks.
Hollywood Master Blasters
A hard-hitting middle order bat, Amitoze was born in Delhi and represented Delhi in their U-15 squad along with Virat Kohli before moving to Punjab to play for their U-19 and Senior sides. He missed out on the final squad for the triumphant 2008 India U-19 World Cup squad despite scoring heavily and ending up being second on the charts for the overall runs tally for the 50-Over U-19 inter state tournament.
Taking rejection in his stride he promptly made 197 against the Baroda U-22 side. The purple patch soon gave him a first-class debut. Shortly after, Amitoze was picked up by the Mumbai Indians. He warmed the bench for both the seasons he was with MI, only getting a game once without getting a hit in the middle. He nonetheless impressed in a practice game clubbing 65* off 35 balls against the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Harbhajan Singh and Lasith Malinga.
Amitoze gave up on the BCCI after signing up for the Dubai T10 tournament. He has since played top level club cricket in New Zealand and England, before announcing his arrival in California with a double hundred in a local club level T20 match.
East Bay Blazers
Zaki Sultani is a wiry teenage leg spinner from Afghanistan, who is making waves in Bay Area cricket circles with his mystery spin. He is the latest offshoot of the Afghani conveyor belt of mystery spinners dominating T20 leagues worldwide.
A former Afghanistan U-19 representative, he featured in the tri-nation series involving India U19 and Nepal U19 before heading to the Asia Cup where he was not selected. Zaki is a crafty bowler with a vicious turning googly and a lethal flipper in his repertoire, to compliment his stock leg spin delivery. Not one to shy off from a bout, he revels in bowling in the powerplay as well at the death in T20s.
Zaki was in prime form before the COVID-19 pandemic halted all cricket in the US, taking 24 wickets in 12 T20 games at 5.43 RPO in the Northern California Cricket Association. With the mystery spin being in vogue right now, he will be looking to show his credentials on the national stage and beyond.
Shadley Van Schalkwyk
Silicon Valley Strikers
Born in Cape Town to a professional rugby player, Van Schalkwyk grew up playing both Rugby and Cricket. A quick bowler by chance, having started out his journey as a wicket keeper, he has done well to take nearly 250 wickets in his 97 first class games.
Van Schalkwyk received his first professional contract with the Knights franchise in the South African domestic set up after graduating through the ranks of age group cricket in South Africa. A workhorse of a bowler in the longer format, he is a thrifty T20 bowler with a bag full of tricks including the back of the hand slower ball and the knuckle ball. He proved his credentials as a T20 bowler in the 2014 Ram Slam T20 competition, finishing as the leading wicket taker of the tournament.
Consistent performances got him within touching distance of representing the Proteas, once called back from a vacation and placed on standby for the national side. Unfortunately, that was the closest Van Schalkwyk could get to representing his country.
Shayan Jahangir is another one of those batting dynamites, battle hardened in the dusty streets of Karachi. And yet just like many other prodigiously talented batsmen, Shayan’s is a name well buried in the echelons of the bizarre world of Pakistan cricket.
Shayan had a penchant for scoring big from a young age. In his late teens, he pummeled 230 in a U19 50-over selection game, catapulting him into the Pakistan U19 side. He then followed up his selection with a stroke filled 85 off 70 balls in the final of the tri-nation tournament against England U19 at Trent Bridge. Much to his disappointment, that innings in a match winning cause was not enough to book his ticket to the 2014 U19 World Cup.
He began his first-class cricketing journey with Pakistan International Airlines, enduring a couple of dry seasons with the bat before eventually relocating to Houston. Shayan primarily plays in the competitive Houston Cricket League, averaging over 67 across 13 games striking at 134. His perseverance and attacking stroke play was noticed by Texas based owners of Barbados Tridents, resulting in his selection for the 2020 edition of the Caribbean Premier League.
There are few in Jamaica that hit the ball harder than the 6’2” and 240 lbs Kennar Lewis. The full force of Lewis was on show when playing for Jamaica Tallawahs in the 2018 CPL, smacking 51 off 35 balls against a star-studded Trinbago Knight Riders bowling attack which included DJ Bravo and Sunil Narine. Two games later, he later tore apart a St Kitts & Nevis Patriots lineup consisting of Sheldon Cotterell and Sandeep Lamichhane with 49 off 24 balls including 4 towering sixes.
Surprisingly, he wasn’t retained by the Tallawahs in 2020, but Lewis is making every opportunity count turning up at the Dubai T10. An imposing presence at the crease, he has the ability to change the game at the top of the order and has his eyes firmly set on dominating Minor League Cricket.