The inaugural Minor League Cricket season is almost underway with 27 teams across 21 different cities set to compete in more than 200 Twenty20 games. This tournament is set to be the most extensive cricket league that the United States has ever seen. The 27 teams are broken up into the Eastern, Central, Southern, and Western divisions based on geographic location. Opening weekend is scheduled to take place from July 31 to Aug. 1.
The Central Division features seven teams: the Austin Athletics, Chicago Catchers, Irving Mustangs, Houston Hurricanes, Chicago Blasters, Michigan Cricket Stars and the St. Louis Americans.
The Austin Athletics had a change of ownership this off-season and now call Moosa Stadium in Houston their new home for this 2021 season. Nitish Jumar along with Shayan Jahangir will be the lead batters. There are also a handful of former international players in William Perkins (West Indies) and Kamran Akmal (Pakistan), who will join the team later in the season. The team is also relatively young with two members of the USA Cricket U19 training squad on the roster.
The Chicago Blasters are one of the two teams from Illinois, calling BPL Cricket Stadium in Bolingbrook, IL, home. Shaheer Hassan is expected to be the backbone of the batting for the team. Hassan hopes to replicate his century off 50 deliveries in last year’s Minor League exhibition games. The Blasters will play five games at the Bolingbrook Cricket Stadium this season.
The Chicago Catchers, who will play games at two venues in Chicago and Skokie, will be led in the batting line-up by Karan Kumar. Kumar had an impressive performance in the MiLC exhibition matches by scoring a century with a strong strike rate of over 200 last season. Rizwan Cheema, an experienced former captain of the Canadian team, is the featured Wildcard player for the team. The Catchers also made big roster changes from last season with only 10 of the 18 featured for them during the MiLC exhibition matches returning.
The Houston Hurricanes call Prairie View Cricket Complex in Prairie View, TX home. With Ashley Nurse and Ali Khan available for the first two weekends, the Hurricanes will look to start the season strong. All-rounder Willem Ludick is the player to watch throughout the championship. Ludick recently scored an unbeaten 50 against the USA Cricket U19 team during a pre-season match. The Hurricanes boast a trio of spinners who will lead the bowling attack in Nurse, captain Usman Rafiq, and youngster Karthik Gattepalli.
The Irving Mustangs are staked as a strong contender in the Central division. They call McKinney Cricket Grounds in McKinney, TX home and possess a wealth of experience. Former New Zealand international Corey Anderson will be the captain and other key players include Najaf Shah, Burt Cockley, and Noshtush Kenjige, who is also on the USA national team. This team is stocked with young talent, with no less than five members of the USA Cricket U19 training squad on the roster.
The Michigan Cricket Stars will play at Lyon Oaks Cricket Ground in Wixom, MI. The Stars have faced several recent roster issues, but have added late call-ups in Nicholas Kirton and Leniko Boucher – both of whom have Caribbean Premier League experience. The team will also be supported with the bat by Shaker Ahmed. Ahmed averaged 48 for the Cricket Stars during the 2020 Minor League exhibition games.
The St. Louis Americans is a new team for this 2021 season. They will be playing matches out of ACAC Park in O’Fallon, MO. The team will be led by LA Open tournament MVP, Obus Piener. The Americans also feature former IPL star and talented bowler, Siddarth Trivedi. Joshua Kind, former USA Cricket U19 captain, looks to make his mark and push himself into the frame for national team selection.