MLC Domestic Player Draft Review

March 28, 2023


Tom Nielsen returns to review the MLC Domestic Player Draft, which took place at Space Center Houston, the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center on Sunday, March 19.

The 2023 Major League Cricket season “blasted off” last Sunday (can’t resist a space pun!) at Space Center Houston with the inaugural season’s domestic player draft. Each team had nine picks of domestic-based talent to make, with at least one of those picks being a U-23 player. In this post we’ll do a quick review of each team’s draft.

Seattle Orcas

With the first pick in the first-ever Domestic Draft for Major League Cricket, the Seattle Orcas took all-rounder Harmeet Singh, one of the leading stars from MiLC 2022. Last year, Singh took 22 wickets from 64.0 overs at an economy of 5.45 while adding 294 runs at a blistering 226 strike rate. Joining Singh on the Orcas are two of his Seattle Thunderbolts teammates: left-arm pace bowler Phani Simhadri, who led the league with 43 wickets last year, and all-rounder Shubham Ranjane, who took 186 runs at a 146 strike rate in addition to 17 wickets from just 30.3 overs in eight matches of Minor League action last year.

Strong Minor League Cricket performance was clearly valued by the Orcas. In terms of Impact Stats from MiLC 2022, the Orcas took the top available batter – Shehan Jayasuriya, who had 692 runs at a 147 strike rate – as well as the top bowler (Simhadri) and top all-rounder (Singh).

Aaron Jones, Nauman Anwar and Angelo Perera round out outstanding batting depth for the Orcas and each could contribute a few overs with the ball if needed. Youth pick Matthew Tromp and Cameron Gannon – a newcomer to the US domestic cricket scene – are both strong right-arm pace bowling options.

The current overseas signings for the Orcas are wicketkeeper/left-hand bat Quinton de Kock and all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, with more to be announced soon.

Washington Freedom

The Washington Freedom made it a Seattle Thunderbolts 1-2 to start the draft by taking Andries Gous with the second pick of the draft. Gous is the third leading scorer in Minor League Cricket history with 1,063 runs over two seasons, including a monster 2022 season where he scored 616 runs at a 140 strike rate with four 70+ scores. Gous has two elite top-order batting partners in Sujith Gowda and Saad Ali, who were fifth and eleventh in runs in MiLC in 2022.

Washington also grabbed a pair of Morrisville Raptors: all-rounder Obus Pienaar, who was tenth in overall Impact in 2022 and has taken 13+ wickets and scored 440+ runs in the each of the first two MiLC seasons; and Raptors captain and right-arm spin option Dane Piedt.

The Freedom were able to snag left-arm pace bowler Saurabh Netravalkar in the fourth round, potentially a bargain at that stage of the draft. A former captain of the US National Team, Netravalkar has been the most consistent USA bowler for the past five years. He has dominated MiLC action as well, restricting opponents’ totals by -3.03 runs per over in 2022, good for third best in the league amongst qualifying bowlers.

Washington’s youth pick was Akhilesh Bodugum – another Seattle Thunderbolt – who had an excellent 2022 season in Minor League Cricket, taking 23 wickets from 55.0 overs, capping it off by taking the huge wicket of Steven Taylor in the second over of the final that Seattle would go on to win. The announced overseas signings for the Freedom are right-arm fast (and I mean REALLY FAST) bowler Anrich Nortje, as well as leg-spinning all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga, both of whom have extensive recent IPL experience.

MI New York

The theme of the MI New York draft was clear: players with US National Team experience were a priority, with six of their nine draft picks having played for the National Team. New York’s first round pick was Steven Taylor, who gets a well-deserved reward after years of punishing performances with the bat and growing prowess with the ball for the US National Team. Still just 29, Taylor is coming off a 2022 where he scored a huge 101* (55) against Jersey in the T20 WCQ and put together a string of 10-straight matches where he took a wicket in ODI action. Fellow USA star and left-arm spin bowler Nosthush Kenjige joins MINY as a fourth round pick, coming off a stellar 2022 MiLC season where he was top bowler in the league in terms of Impact per Over, restricting opponents’ totals by -3.76 runs per over.

New York took a pair of Golden State Grizzlies with their second and third round picks. In the second round was 2021 MiLC MVP Hammad Azam. In 2021, Azam scored 411 runs at a blistering 184 strike rate, to go along with 12 wickets and an excellent 5.83 economy with the ball. Third-round pick and right-arm fast bowler Ehsan Adil put up solid figures in his first season of Minor League Cricket in 2022, taking 18 wickets from 37.0 overs with an impact of -1.21 runs per over.

Monank Patel and Shayan Jahangir provide batting depth for MINY-wicketkeeper Jahangir coming off an outstanding 2022 MiLC season with 507 runs at a 134 strike rate. New York also snagged the all-time leading wicket-taker in MiLC, leg-spinning Sarbjeet Singh Ladda, who has taken 56 wickets across 112.1 overs of MiLC action in his career.

The youth pick for MINY was the top youth run-scorer of MiLC in 2022, Saideep Ganesh. Ganesh scored 402 runs at a 136 strike rate from the opening position.

San Francisco Unicorns

The Unicorns started off their draft with arguably the two biggest names available in the draft – Corey Anderson in the first round, followed up by Liam Plunkett in the second. Both players have experience on cricket’s biggest stage in World Cup Finals and have taken their talents stateside to Minor and Major League Cricket.

San Francisco looked outside the Minor League Cricket ecosystem for talent, with their third, fourth and sixth round picks carrying no previous MiLC experience. In the third and fourth rounds, the Unicorns took all-rounders Tajinder Singh and Chaitanya Bishnoi, who both hail from India and have experience on IPL rosters. Right-arm fast bowler Brody Couch is the sixth round pick and had a strong 2021-22 season in the BBL, taking 16 wickets from 43.0 overs at an economy of 8.21.

The Unicorns came through with one of the steals of the draft in the seventh round with right-hand bat David White. White had a monster season in MiLC 2022, scoring 607 runs at a 146 strike rate, good for third place in batting impact across the league last year.

Youth pick and all-rounder Sanjay Krishnamurthi wrapped up the draft for the Unicorns, the local product performing as arguably the top youth all-rounder from the first two seasons of Minor League Cricket, taking 29 wickets in 66.0 overs of spin bowling in addition to 324 runs at a 160 strike rate over the last two years.

So far the Unicorns have announced two overseas signings out of Australia – batter Aaron Finch and all-rounder Marcus Stoinis – both of whom carry extensive international and top-level domestic franchise experience.

Los Angeles Knight Riders

The Los Angeles Knight Riders started off their draft by showing their loyalty to Ali Khan, the most successful American on the franchise cricket circuit, who has featured for the Trinbago Knight Riders and Kolkata Knight Riders. The yorker specialist has taken 43 wickets in his CPL career and been a key member – when healthy – of the US National Team bowling attack.

LAKR firmed up their batting order with their second and third round picks, taking all-time Minor League Cricket leading scorer Unmukt Chand and Jaskaran Malhotra, who is famous for hitting six sixes in an over in a 2021 ODI against Papua New Guinea. Former Canadian International Nitish Kumar was selected in the fourth round after turning in strong all-round performances in two years of Minor League Cricket: 629 runs with the bat and 28 wickets in 95.0 overs with the ball. Bowling-focused all-rounder Shadley van Schalkwyk was perhaps one of the steals of the draft in the eighth round; Shadley sits sixth in the all-time wickets table in Minor League Cricket, having taken 40 wickets at a solid 6.41 economy.

The Knight Riders prioritized youth in the domestic draft, taking left-arm spinner Ali Sheikh in the sixth round after strong performances with both bat and ball during the MLC combine preceding the draft. All-rounder Bhaskar Yadram was another steal in the final round after finishing twelfth in overall impact in Minor League Cricket last year, adding +8.4 runs per match with the bat from the lower order as well as restricting opponents’ totals by -0.70 runs per over with the ball.

Texas Super Kings

The Super Kings went with Rusty Theron as their first pick of the draft, who was one of the top bowlers of the inaugural season of Minor League Cricket, taking 15 wickets from 41.5 overs at an economy of 5.24: second best economy amongst qualifying pace bowlers in the whole league. The second of Texas’ back-to-back picks went to one of the standout newcomers of MiLC 2022, Calvin Savage. The pace bowling all-rounder carried the brand-new Chicago Tigers team to the playoffs and finished the season in sixth place in Total Impact, despite missing a full weekend of the season to welcome a new baby to the family (putting this performance together with a newborn at home is itself an accomplishment!).

The Super Kings then went to work on their batting, grabbing wicketkeeper Lahiru Milantha, Milind Kumar and Sami Aslam with their next three picks. Milantha is the stand-out, having finished 2022 in fourth place in Total Impact, adding +10.3 runs to his teams’ totals with the bat relative to the average batter. All three finished the season with 440+ runs at above average strike rates. Kumar and Aslam each had some time with the ball in 2022 but are very much batting-focused players.

Leg-spinner Zia Shahzad was a great pick in the eighth round to shore up Texas’ spin bowling. Shahzad is coming off a pair of 25 wicket hauls in Minor League Cricket at a tight career economy of 6.58. The youth pick for the Super Kings was US National Team regular Sai Mukkamalla. Mukkamalla has compiled exactly 700 runs over his two-year MiLC career. Initially he had issues with scoring speed, but his strike rate ticked up in 2022, highlighted by strong performance in the playoffs, where he had 102 runs over three matches at a 129 strike rate.

The inaugural Major League Cricket season will arrive for real on July 13, but there’s plenty of Major and Minor League action to come before then, as overseas players will continue to be announced and the first half of the Minor League Cricket season takes place before a pause for Major League Cricket.