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America's Cinderella runs during the Cricket T-20 World CupExBulletin

America's Cinderella runs during the Cricket T-20 World CupExBulletin
America's Cinderella runs during the Cricket T-20 World CupExBulletin


Saurabh Netravalkar, right, has become the breakout star of the U.S. national cricket team for heroics such as his dismissal of Indian superstar cricketer Virat Kohli, center, during Wednesday's match between the U.S. and India at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York.

Saurabh Netravalkar, right, has become the breakout star of the U.S. national cricket team for heroics such as his dismissal of Indian superstar cricketer Virat Kohli, center, during Wednesday's match between the U.S. and India at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York.

Adam Hunger/AP


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Adam Hunger/AP

Before this month, the US national cricket team had never competed in a T20 World Cup, one of the most watched sporting events in the world.

Now the US is a bona fide Cinderella and is just one win or an exit away from placing alongside the world's best teams in the second round of the tournament.

Although cricket is the second most popular sport worldwide, it has long struggled to gain a foothold in the US. This interest was one of the objectives of the organizers in selecting the USA as co-host of this year's T20 World Cup, the premiere international tournament in the most accessible and fastest format of cricket.

Now, after a stunning upset in Pakistan and a narrow loss to India, which saw the US face some of the greatest cricketers in the world, the national team along with breakout star Saurabh Netravalkar has caught the attention of cricketers. both diehards and newcomers.

“A seed has been planted for the sport in the country,” Netravalkar, a bowler and the team's breakout star, told NPR.

With a win against Ireland on Friday, the US will advance to the next round of the tournament to play at least three more games. Strap in.

Tell me about some of the players on the team

The US team has many players who were born abroad and have since moved to the US to make their home here. Among the nationalities: India, Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand. The team's coach, Stuart Law, is from Australia, and the captain, Aaron Jones, was born in Queens to immigrants from Barbados.

The team's breakout star was Netravalkar, whose bowling in the super over (actually extra time) of the match against Pakistan helped seal the victory for the US. His heroics continued against India even when the US fell short.

Unlike his opponents in those matches, who are professional players, Netravalkar has a day job: he works as a software engineer.

Netravalkar was born and raised in India, where he was a promising cricketer and played for the India under-19 national team. But in 2015, he decided to study software engineering and moved to the US for graduate school. Now that he has a full-time job, he trains in the evenings and on weekends, and his employer, the technology company Oracle, allows him to take a leave of absence to continue his cricket career, he said.

“Instead of one being my full-time job and the other being a passion, I still enjoy doing my job,” he said. “As long as I can do what I love, to do both, that's the goal for me.”

Tell me about a highlight I can talk about with my friends

The scene: Wednesday, India vs USA. The US batted first, scoring 110 modest, respectable, maybe enough to win.

Then it was India's turn to bat, and the heavyweight sent in two of his best players: team captain Rohit Sharma and megastar Virat Kohli, perhaps the most famous cricketer in the world, whose 269 million Instagram followers are more than any athlete whatsoever. called Messi or Ronaldo.

“I tried to look at it like any other player I bowled against,” Netravalkar said. “I tried to keep the names out of it and just follow the process.”

In doing so, he stunned India and thrilled the crowd of 30,000 by dismissing Kohli on his first ball before the star had a chance to score a single run, a feat in cricket called a 'golden duck' is called. Netravalkar's dismissal of Sharma came soon after, having scored just three runs off a pop-up ball.

“They are two of arguably the best hitters in the world. It feels good,” Netravalkar said, adding that his mother had traveled from India to attend the match. “It was a special day for me.”

Many fans at the US-India match cheered for both teams.

Many fans at the US-India match cheered for both teams.

Adam Hunger/AP


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Adam Hunger/AP

Have people in the US watched?

It's been a hit. Tens of thousands of people have come to watch the games in Texas, New York and Florida. Tickets to see India play Pakistan were selling for nearly $1,000 or more each on the secondary market.

“[The] The US is such a diverse country. There are many people who have migrated from different parts of the world and with the people the sport has to travel too,” Anand Haury, another fan at Wednesday's match, told member station WSHU.

At Wednesday's match between the US and India on Long Island, the crowd cheered for both teams. Many in the stands wore blue India jerseys while holding an American flag.

“I grew up in India and came to the US 10 years ago. And the US gave me everything, so I support both countries,” said Rutz Pat, who came from Pennsylvania to watch the match.

And the response online has been huge, with mainstream media coverage and viral posts on social media.

I admit I don't know how to watch cricket. How does it work?

Luckily for you, NPR's producer in Mumbai is here to help. Take a listen to this Morning Edition segment and you'll be ready to watch Friday's game.

Okay, tell me about Friday's game again. The US wins and moves on?

That's right. The USA-Ireland match kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

If the U.S. wins, the U.S. will advance to the round of 16, a new group stage called Super 8s. There will be two new groups of four teams, each playing against each other. The top two teams from each group advance to the semi-finals.

If the US loses, the path to progress is much more difficult.

And with heavy rain hitting southern Florida this week, there's another possible outcome: a downpour. If the game is canceled due to rain, the US would advance.

Additional reporting by Eda Unzular from WSHU in Nassau County, NY




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