Former India U-19 world cup winning captain, Unmukt Chand recently signed a multi-year deal with the Major League Cricket (MLC) in America where he will play for Silicon Valley Strikers and will also work as a mentor for upcoming cricketers.
Unmukt Chand joining the Major League Cricket is just the latest addition to the list of Indian cricketers moving to the west. While cricket in the USA is still a budding sport, its future looks bright enough to put a stake in it as the country has its eyes set on the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.
But there’s a price to pay for Indian cricketers. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) strictly prohibits Indian cricketers from participating in foreign leagues and if one does so anyway, the player needs to end their association with the board and bid adieu to his or her prospects of playing for the country.
Hence, it goes without saying that the decision wasn’t easy for Chand, who was once regarded as the next big thing in Indian cricket. "These last few years have been tough,” he told ESPNcricinfo.
“But I wasn't going to give up on cricket completely. If I wasn't getting enough opportunities to play in India, where were the next four or five crucial years of my career going to go? I still get emotional imagining that I will never get to play for India again. But I have made some special memories while playing in India."
What is Major League Cricket?
Major League Cricket, a big part of the USA’s cricketing plan for expanding the sport in the country in the future, is a T20 competition comprising six franchises. The tournament was supposed to begin in 2022, but was later postponed to 2023 due to a lack of proper infrastructure for cricket in the country.
As per initial plans, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York, and San Francisco are being targetted as potential markets for the franchises. USA Cricket recently also announced the creation of four new turf wicket facilities and are looking forward to launching their senior and U-19 women's national competitions.
While MLC is still two years away, Minor League Cricket - a predecessor of sorts to Major League Cricket - is already underway. Unlike MLC, the Minor League Cricket is played between 27 teams divided in four different groups, namely, Southern Division, Eastern Division, Central Division and Western Division. Silicon Valley Strikers’ Chand played his first game in the Minor League Cricket on Friday and was dismissed for a three-ball duck.
I don't think Unmukt Chand will be sharing this on his Instagram Stories anytime soon. Third-ball duck on @MiLCricket debut for the ex-India 2012 U19 World Cup winning captain. He was opening the batting for Silicon Valley Strikers in Morgan Hill, California today. pic.twitter.com/El0G1fLmP1— Peter Della Penna (@PeterDellaPenna) August 15, 2021
Apart from acquiring cricketers from around the world, the tournament has also attracted heavy investors, which includes Bollywood star, Shah Rukh Khan, who already owns an Indian T20 League as well as a Caribbean Premier League team.
Hollywood Master Blasters; a team playing in the Minor Cricket League is also owned by the actor. He has also reportedly invested in the American Cricket Enterprises (ACE); the operational company of MLC. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen are potential investors in the Major League Cricket.
Who are the other Indian cricketers in Major League Cricket?
Before Unmukt Chand, former U-19 world cup winner, Smit Patel announced his retirement in May 2021 to play cricket in the USA. He is currently playing in the Minor Cricket League.
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Former Rajasthan bowler, Siddharth Trivedi also moved to the USA in June 2021 and is playing for St Louis Americans in the Minor Cricket League.
Top names from other nations currently involved in the Minor Cricket League include the likes of Rahkeem Cornwall (West Indies), Amila Aponso (Sri Lanka), Corey Anderson (New Zealand), Narsingh Deonarine (West Indies), Sami Aslam (Pakistan), Shehan Jayasuriya (Sri Lanka) and Dane Piedt (South Africa).
Featured photo: Twitter / USA Cricket