Tom Nielsen returns to preview the MLC Domestic Player Draft, set to place at Space Center Houston, the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center on Sunday, March 19.
It all starts this weekend for the six foundation MLC franchises, who will be drafting eight rounds worth of domestic talent along with one ‘Rookie’ Under-23 player on Sunday night, with teams also required to select an additional domestic player to the team roster at a later date based on performances during the first half of the Minor League cricket season. The remainder of each team’s player roster will be filled with some of the best T20 cricketers from around the globe.
Over 100 players will be eligible to be drafted, representing the top US-based talent in the USA cricket community. Today we’ll walk through a brief (and certainly not comprehensive!) overview of some of the players available to the six franchises this Sunday night.
Players with World Cup Experience:
- Liam Plunkett featured in the 2019 Cricket World Cup final, taking three crucial wickets as England went on to win the World Cup in dramatic fashion. Plunkett joined the Major League Cricket family in late 2021 and debuted for The Philadelphians in Minor League Cricket in 2022. In his first season on US soil, he took eight wickets at a 6.98 economy and contributed 189 runs with the bat.
- Corey Anderson scored two half centuries in the 2015 Cricket World Cup – one in the opening match on home soil for New Zealand (in a man of the match performance), and later in a semi-final victory over South Africa. In two seasons of Minor League Cricket, Corey Anderson has scored 562 runs at a 128 strike rate, while taking 4 wickets from 11.0 overs at a tight 4.73 economy.
- Unmukt Chand captained India to victory in the 2012 U-19 World Cup, scoring a heroic 111* (130) in the finals to take down Australia for the title. Chand has been the most prolific scorer in Minor League Cricket history, with a league-leading 1,305 runs across two seasons and captained a championship victory for the Silicon Valley Strikers in 2021.
- Also on the 2012 U-19 World Cup winning team with Chand were fellow prospective MLC draftees Harmeet Singh and Smit Patel. In addition, Ehsan Adil appeared in the 2015 World Cup for Pakistan, picking up Steve Smith’s wicket in his country’s quarter-final defeat to Australia.
US National Teamers:
- Saurabh Netravalkar has been a consistently excellent presence in the US bowling lineup in recent years in both ODI and T20I formats, with outstanding economy rates in the CWC League 2 and 2022 T20 World Cup Qualifier competitions. Over two years of Minor League Cricket, Netravalkar sports an economy rate of just 5.20, third best of qualifying bowlers, and the best economy from a pace bowler.
- Nosthush Kenjige has emerged as another stalwart of the USA bowling attack in the last year, sporting an economy of 3.79 from 151.0 overs in CWC League 2 play since the start of 2022, fourth best amongst qualifying bowlers. Nosh’s bowling took a leap in Minor League Cricket in 2022 as well, where he took an outstanding 26 wickets from 45.3 overs at an economy of just 4.95, some of the best overall figures in the league, and putting him in the conversation for best bowler available at the draft.
- Aaron Jones has helped form the backbone of the USA batting lineup in CWC League 2 action, with a team-leading average of 42.3 across 31 innings, with eight half centuries and one century. Like Kenjige, Aaron Jones stepped up big time in Minor League Cricket in 2022, scoring 395 runs from just 8 innings at a strike rate of 151. Jones scored 40+ in six of his eight innings, including back-to-back-to-back 60s in the playoffs to lead the Atlanta Fire to the Atlantic Division Title.
Minor League Cricket Stars:
- Hammad Azam was the MVP of the inaugural Minor League Cricket season in 2021 as he put together an outstanding all-round performance. With the bat, Azam scored 411 runs at a punishing 184 strike rate, adding +12.6 runs per match above the average batter. With the ball, Azam took 12 wickets in 52.0 overs at a tight 5.83 economy, restricting opponents’ totals by -1.0 runs per over.
- Phani Simhadri took home MVP honors in season two of Minor League Cricket last year. Simhadri’s wicket-taking prowess is unmatched in MiLC history, taking 43 wickets from just 63.1 overs in 2021, good for a wicket every 8.8 balls-all alongside a solid sub-6.00 economy. Not only did Simhadri take a wicket in every match he bowled in 2022, but he took 2+ wickets in all but two matches.
- Sujith Gowda has been one of the most consistent bats across the first two seasons of Minor League Cricket and sits as the career leader in Total Batting Impact, having contributed +236 runs to his teams’ totals above the average batter, good for +7.9 runs per game. Gowda has compiled 1,014 runs over the last two years, fourth best in Minor League Cricket history, at a strike rate of 149, better than the three batters ahead of him. Gowda has eight half-centuries to his name, four in each year, and hit a boundary in every single match of 2022 — vital consistency in the short format.
MLC Combine Standouts:
- Sami Aslam has carried over excellent MiLC form into the MLC Domestic Player Combine, where he scored 90* (54) from the opening position to drive the Atlanta Fire to a successful chase of 200 in just 17.3 overs. Over two years of Minor League Cricket, Sami Aslam has racked up 948 runs, good for 6th all-time in the league.
- Sarbjeet Singh Ladda turned in 3 strong performances in the group stage of the MLC Domestic Player Combine, taking two wickets from his full quota of 4.0 overs in each match – overall figures of six wickets from 12.0 overs at a tight economy of 5.50. This performance is no surprise for close followers of Minor League Cricket, where Ladda is the career leader in wickets, with 56 across 30 matches of MiLC action.
- Ali Sheikh has been excellent in limited match action in the MLC Combine, taking seven wickets from just 8.0 overs at an economy of 7.88, including two 3-wicket hauls. Sheikh also just missed a half century in his second match, finishing with a 49 (38) to salvage a defendable score for his squad. Over two years of Minor League Cricket, Ali Sheikh has 27 wickets at a 7.09 economy alongside 264 runs with the bat.
Newcomers to MLC/MiLC:
- While other commitments have prevented Ian Holland and Cameron Stevenson from participating in Minor League Cricket, both players have experience with the US National Team. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Ian Holland is an all-rounder with Hampshire in England, while fast bowler Cameron Stevenson plies his trade in Australia.
- Brody Couch, a US-passport holder by virtue of his mother’s American heritage, comes to the USA from Australia, where in the 2021-22 Big Bash he led the Melbourne Stars in wickets with 16 across his 43.0 overs. Cameron Gannon also hails from Australia and was the leading wicket taker in Australia’s first-class competition, the Sheffield Shield, in 2019-20 with 38 wickets. Gannon also carries with him extensive experience in the Big Bash League.
Be sure to tune in on Sunday for all the action as we get the first glimpse into rosters for the Major League Cricket inaugural season!