The inaugural Minor League Cricket season is now underway with 27 teams across 21 different cities set to compete in more than 200 Twenty20 games. This tournament will 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. Today we look ahead to the Western Division.
The East Bay Blazers, with Santa Clara Cricket Club as their home ground, impressed during the Minor League exhibition games during the 2020 season. Their run of form provided plenty of experience for a number of young players that will hold them in good stead for the 2021 season. No young player impressed more during the 2020 exhibition matches than League MVP Sanjay Krishnamurthi, who will look to leave the same mark on the Championship tournament this summer. The Blazers feature a strong batting line-up with captain David White, wildcard player Chad Bowes, and up and coming batsman Sujith Gowda, who impressed during the recent LA Open. The bowling attack is spearheaded by USA national team fast-bowler Rusty Theron, who will bring years of experience playing franchise cricket around the world.
Located in Davis, CA at Arroyo Park, the Golden State Grizzlies will be looking to the experienced duo of Sami Aslam and Hammad Azam to lead their line-up, both of whom have played international cricket for Pakistan. These two stars are complemented by four exciting young prospects under the age of 20. The Grizzlies will be eager to see wicketkeeper batsman Saideep Ganesh return from injury as soon as possible. One player to look out for is Neeraj Goel – he made an impression during the 2020 exhibition matches with eight wickets over his seven matches and will be eager to continue this form in 2021.
Down in southern California, the Hollywood Master Blasters will take the field for the first time in 2021 after COVID-19 restrictions prevented them from playing any exhibition games in 2020. The Nepalese duo of Basant Regmi and Prithu Baskota will join the team for the 2021 season and aim to continue strong form displayed during the LA Open earlier this month. The Master Blasters will also be looking to the experience of batsman Cody Chetty, as well as USA National Team member and captain of the Master Blasters, Nisarg Patel. The Master Blaster’s will play their home matches at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, CA.
Just down the coast, the aptly-named San Diego Surf Riders are captained by former NZ first-class cricketer Marty Kain. His all-round contributions with bat, ball and in the field will be crucial to the Surf Riders chances of success. San Diego will be looking for turning pitches – the Surf Riders bowling attack will feature variety among their three high-quality spin options which is bound to suit the newly laid wicket at Canyonside Park, their home ground. Former USA National Team batsman Mrunal Patel will be looking to continue his hot run of form shown at the LA Open at the top of the order for the San Diego. An X-factor for the Surf Riders will be off-season addition to the side Brynley Richards, who will look to provide consistency with bat and ball in hand.
Back up in the Bay Area, the Silicon Valley Strikers have added some big names to the roster in 2021 – including USA National Team captain Saurabh Netravalkar and former Sri Lankan international Shehan Jayasuriya. Young batsman Rahul Jariwala has been dominating attacks recently in local league cricket in Northern California and will be looking to continue this form in the Minor League competition. The Strikers boast strong depth in domestic players to complement their overseas stars. Narsingh Deonarine, Abhishek Paradkar and Srinivas Raghaven will provide depth and stability for the Strikers’ line-up. Wildcard Nyeem Young (Barbados Tridents, Delhi Bulls) will be available for the first two weeks of the season prior to the CPL and will be looking to make an impression during his short spell with the team.
The Seattle Thunderbolts will be the new kids on the block this year in the Western Division – one of three expansion teams for the 2021 Toyota Minor League Cricket championship following last year’s exhibition season. Playing their home games at Klahnie Park following the recent development of their new home for 2022. Seattle will be looking to the experience of Andries Gous, Shadley van Schalkwyk and captain Harmeet Singh to take on a significant amount of responsibility with both bat and ball. In addition, Prajith Mudi will be a key player for the Thunderbolts, having moved over from the Austin Athletics during the off-season
The SoCal Lashings have gone primarily with home-grown talent from the LA area – a key strength will be their experience on the pitches of Woodley Park, sure to provide home ground advantage during the season. The evergreen Elmore Hutchinson, a USA National Team player, will add some x-factor to their line-up with bat and ball in hand, and further support will be provided by current USA National Team training squad member Gayan Fernando. The bowling attack will be led by former USA National Team off-spinner Abhimanyu Rajp.