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USA looking for wins in T20 World Cup debut

USA cricket team vice-captain Aaron Jones believes the Americans can make an impact in the T20 World Cup (CHANDAN KHANNA)
USA cricket team vice-captain Aaron Jones believes the Americans can make an impact in the T20 World Cup (CHANDAN KHANNA)

The USA will make their debut in the T20 World Cup and while they earned the spot as a result of co-hosting the tournament with the West Indies, they are determined to show they can make an impact among the big boys.

Cricket has a curious history in North America -- the first ever international match featured the USA against Canada in 1844 but the lingering influence of the colonial-era game faded as baseball gained prominence.

The USA has been an associate member of the International Cricket Council since 1965 and frequently competed in the tournaments for non-Test nations.

But the Americans have never featured in either the T20 World Cup or the ODI version, with their only appearance in a major tournament at the 2004 Champions Trophy, where they were roundly beaten by New Zealand and Australia in the group stage.

Grassroots participation has grown over recent years though with thriving local leagues and the T20 format has been used to develop a stronger base with Minor League Cricket and Major League Cricket emerging in the past few years.

It is too soon for those structures to have had an impact on the national side but smart use of the qualification criteria has seen the side become increasingly competitive.

The team coached by Australian Stuart Law head into the tournament on the back of a 2-1 T20I series win over Bangladesh that has provided them with real belief.

The Americans won the opening two games before resting several key starters to provide some opportunity for their back-ups.

The USA, captained by Monank Patel, will have to face giants India and Pakistan along with Ireland and Canada in the group stage.

The addition of former New Zealand all-rounder Corey Anderson has introduced some World Cup experience and top-class quality into the squad.

Anderson moved to the USA in 2020 playing domestic cricket and -- as his last game for New Zealand was in 2018 -- he was able to switch in 2022 due to the 'four year rule' which applies in these cases.

Vice-captain Aaron Jones, who was born in New York but grew up playing in Barbados, says the American team is determined to make a statement in the tournament.

"We want to show everybody in the world that USA can actually be a cricketing country and obviously be role models for the kids coming up," he told AFP.

Jones is one of a number of players with experience of playing cricket outside the USA and he has been impressed by the standard of the associate level nations.

"It's just about getting the opportunity and obviously grasping that opportunity. Afghanistan is a really good team right now and they came through from associate. Ireland obviously came from associate. So the opportunity is there and we just need to really and truly take it and showcase our talent to the world," he added.

Law has been able to work with a fixed core of players including pace bowler Ali Khan, who grew up in Pakistan and has played in the Caribbean Premier League.

Left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh represented India in the Under-19 World Cup in 2012 while Miami-born Steven Taylor has extensive experience in Caribbean cricket.

Jones, who was persuaded by Taylor to join the USA team, rejects any idea that the USA is in the tournament just to make up the numbers.

"We want to win games. We want to bring as much competition as any other team in the tournament," he said.

The shortest form of the game does create the opportunity for more surprises and Jones believes his team are capable of producing some.

"We are a very good team. Obviously we showed that against Bangladesh, one of the best teams in the world," he said.

"I wouldn't call it an upset if we beat Pakistan or India. I will just say that we played better cricket on the day. It is a game of cricket. The bigger teams can lose as well."

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