The Road to Minor League Cricket – Sujith Gowda

November 19, 2021

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You know what college your favorite running back played for and you even know what high school the top NBA and MLB players went to, but what do you know about the best cricketers in this country? How did they get to the top of their game? We continue our look at the different paths players took to make it to Minor League Cricket with part three in this series (read part one and part two). This time, Steve Steinberg of CricAmerica sat down with one of the more dominating batsmen of the past season for an in-depth chat…

Sujith Gowda (East Bay Blazers)

Almost 9,000 miles from where his cricketing adventures began, the East Bay Blazers’ Sujith Gowda made his presence felt in the premier season of Minor League Cricket. He led the league in runs during the regular season with 481 and was a boundary machine — placing among the leaders in both fours and sixes. Given his cricketing background and his intense dedication to the game, though, it was hardly surprising.

Sujith Gowda batting“I started playing cricket when I was in third grade,” says the 25-year-old. And from the very beginning, he was very committed to improving his game. “From about fifth or sixth grade, the practice routine started very early in the morning — five o’clock in the morning — and then I’d go to school and then after school I’d go back to practice again. My time was very dedicated to cricket — mornings and evenings, every day without fail. It was probably around two-and-a-half or three hours in the morning and another three hours in the evening. And when I got to about 15 or 16 years old, that’s when I began doing my one-on-one training to work on specific skills.”

And all those hours of work paid off. “I played through middle school and high school and then I started playing for the state team. From there I went on to play club cricket against all the pros and I started leading the Under-19 state team and the Under-23 state team. I played for the state team — Karnataka — for the past 7 years and when I finished playing Under-23, I came to the US.”

Sujith’s home in the states has been Dallas. And the Dallas area had more than just the promise of cricket to lure him here in August 2020. “One of the reasons I came was to get my master’s. I’m getting my master’s in engineering management from University of Texas at Arlington in December.” (So, just like you know that Tom Brady went to Michigan and Steph Curry went to Davidson, you now know that Sujith Gowda went to UTA!)

“Once I landed here, a lot of club cricketers reached out to me. I started playing some club games and then from there started playing a lot of tournaments. People started seeing me and then things got easier.” And, from the beginning, he was impressed by the level of the cricket he saw. “I didn’t know there would be so much good cricket happening here. At first, I thought there would be some amateur cricketers playing here but then I happened to see a lot of leagues and a lot of academies for cricket and realized it’s not just going to be amateurs here — there’ll be some good competition going on.”

Success in the Dallas area led to his being selected for Minor League Cricket. “We had a camp in Houston for all the MLC players. I think it was in January or February. That’s when all these players started seeing me. The various owners knew me well, because they’d seen me play and I’d been in touch with them since I moved to the US, so I got a call asking if I wanted to play for the Blazers.”

And the competition level and structure of Minor League Cricket has won him over. “I would rate the standards of Minor League Cricket and a few of the open tournaments I’ve played in to be the same, but the minor league was much more organized. It’s on a more professional level. It has value for players with respect to the training room and the gap between games. And it’s organized really well.”

Based on his experiences with high level cricket in India and what he’s seen so far in the US, Sujith is very optimistic about the future of the game here. “The main reason why I think cricket in the US will have a very good future is the level of cricket already being played here, the number of academies, and the under-19 game. It’s not just pros coming from outside and just playing and going away. It’s a structure to improve the grassroots level of cricket in the country.”

“I’ve seen a lot of cricketers here in Dallas who are extremely good. The only thing they didn’t have was match exposure and the situation exposure, which they’re getting now with so many games being played. Talent is there. Skill is there. And they’re improving very fast.”

He’s even more optimistic about the next generation of American players. “People are looking forward to playing Minor League Cricket. I can see the kids here when I meet them. They want to play Minor League and now they have something to look forward to. The standards and the bar are set very high right now and everyone’s trying to push the bar higher.”

And where does he see himself fitting into the future of cricket here? “I can see a lot of cricket for me for at least the next ten or fifteen years. I have ten or fifteen years of cricket left in me in this country — whether it’s minor league, major league, or — hopefully, soon — the national team.”

Who would Sujith want to play with on his Dream XI? “AB de Villiers, Rashid Khan, Trent Boult, Jasprit Bumrah. If I had to, I could name a lot of people! The game’s united a lot of different cultures and ethnicities, but that’s the beauty of this game.”