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Exclusive: “We went to the US Army Centre to train” – USA captain Saurabh Netravalkar

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Cricket News: Exclusive: “We went to the US Army Centre to train” – US Cricket Captain, Saurabh Netravalkar | USA skipper talks USA cricket

In 2015, when Saurabh Netravalkar made the move to the United States for his higher education, little did he know that life will again drop him right where he belonged – on a cricket field.

Saurabh Netravalkar started his journey on the maidans of Mumbai at the age of 10 and slowly worked his way up in the Mumbai cricketing circles. He represented Mumbai in Under-15s, Under-17s, Under-19s and Under-25s. But Saurabh reckons that playing the Under-19 World Cup for India was his highest achievement back then. “Gradually growing through the ranks, I managed to make my way to play for the India under-19 team which was a dream come true,” said Netravalkar in an exclusive interview with The CricBlog Podcast.

Saurabh made his debut for Mumbai in FC cricket in 2015 and after being in and out of the team, he decided to make the move to the US. “I split my journey into two innings, where this (playing Cricket in the US) was a surprise when I least expected to play Cricket in the US”.

“Associate cricket is mentally tougher than full member” – Saurabh Netravalkar

Saurabh made the United States team in 2018 after strong performances in club cricket. Back then, the team was in the startup phase, where US coach Pubudu Dassanayake was scouting for players to represent the national side.

”We had a visionary coach in Pubudu. We built the team from scratch and we worked really hard for the next two years, and we beat the likes of Kenya in Division 3 and beating the likes of Canada and Namibia in Division 2,” said the US captain.

Saurabh also thinks that playing Associate Cricket is mentally tough especially due such limited opportunities. Plus, whenever they get a chance, it is always a make or break situation. The Associate nations may end up playing only 6-8 games in a year and the results go a long way in getting the much-needed funding to help strengthen their cricket.

“We have to make that week count”, Saurabh said in the interview. “It was a special feeling to go through the grind with the bunch of guys working hard for a year, we went through the US olympic training and we went to the US Army Centre to train.”

USA cricket focuses on stronger domestic leagues & youth

US Cricket has made developments in the cricketing structure in the country. Their focus has been on the youth and with that view Minor League Cricket was established with an eye on developing Major League Cricket down the line.

Minor League Cricket saw 210 games being played across the country. The league comprised 27 teams divided into 4 divisions. “There is a lot of emphasis on youth, they are investing a lot in the Under-19 programs and the Women’s programs”, Saurabh said. “The Minor League Cricket had a rule where teams had to play two Under-19 players and one Under-21 player along with the international players. So the young players got a chance to share the dressing rooms with the liesk of Unmukt Chand, Rovman Powell, Ashley Nurse.”

Saurabh hopes that Major League Cricket, likely to be established in 2022, will help US cricket to build a similar structure to the likes of Baseball in the country.

“US Cricket has academies across the US, where the overseas players travelling as professionals, are involved in mentoring the youth,” said Netravalkar.

Aiming for 2023 ODI World Cup & will be a dream come true to play India one day – Netravalkar

Saurabh also spoke about his vision for USA Cricket. “I have been telling the coach for the last two years, we have to aim to play the 2023 WC in India. We have 20 more games to go and win most of them but I believe this team has the potential and if we get to the WC and beat full member nations, we can leave our mark on the competition and we can show that we have a right on the circuit.

Obviously another goal is to aim for the LA Olympics in 2028 and there are talks about Cricket being a part, so it will be great for the team to be a part of it.”

Saurabh dreams of one day playing regular cricket matches against full-member nations and playing against India will definitely be a dream come true for him. He also believes that the US can compete regularly with full-member nations in the coming years.

“The best we can definitely compete with full-member nations in the next 4-5 years; there definitely is the potential”, said the USA captain.

His key area to focus on as a captain for USA Cricket is consistency. Saurabh said, ”We have the pieces, but what we lack is the consistency. Also considering the 2023 WC, we need to imbibe the youngsters into the team, who can take the team forward.”

It will be a waiting game for Saurabh and USA Cricket for now as they look to qualify for the 2022 T20 WC and also keep an eye on the 2023 WC in India. But one thing is for sure, with the amount of resources that USA has in the country, US Cricket can definitely be a force to reckoned with in the near future.

Watch the interview below or listen to the podcast here

Written by Nash Sant. Follow Nash on Twitter today

Nash Sant
Nash Santhttps://twitter.com/NashvSant
Nachiket Sant (or Nash for short) is your every day cricket tragic. Nash is a passionate Indian cricket fan based in Australia and is co-host of The CricBlog Podcast. He enjoys writing opinion pieces on topics close to his heart, especially around the Indian cricket team.

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