Grand Prairie,  Major League Cricket,  Morrisville,  T20

Major League Cricket 2024 Preview

This side of the Earth was just host to one of the most exciting World Cups in recent memory and now the eyes of the cricketing world will remain fixed on the US as Major League Cricket gets ready to fire up its second season.

Last year, it was Kieron Pollard, Nicholas Pooran, Rashid Khan, and MI New York that got to hoist the championship trophy in Texas. There's been a lot of player movement since last year and a lot of world-class cricketers will be playing in the league for the first time, but will anyone have the chops to dethrone MINY?

Kieron Pollard of MI New York  during match thirteen of Major League Cricket season 1 between the MI New York and the Washington Freedom held at Church Street Park, Morrisville, NC , United States of America on the 23rd July 2023

Photo by: Ron Gaunt/ SPORTZPICS for MLC

MI New York

The New Yorkers didn't do a lot of tinkering with the roster that took home the title. With a batting lineup that includes Pollard, Pooran, Dewald Brevis, and Tim David and a bowling attack that features Rashid, Trent Boult, Kagiso Rabada, and the US's best spin bowler in Nosh Kenjige, there simply wasn't a whole lot to do. The biggest absentee from last year's squad is David Wiese. While Wiese spent the last month helping anchor Namibia's World Cup team, his time spent with MINY in 2023 wasn't as memorable. If anything, New York's bowling -- which was already one of the scariest in the league -- will get a boost from South African speedster Anrich Nortje, who spent last year with Washington.

With a roster very similar to the one that won it all last year, MINY will be the team to beat this year.

Nauman Anwar of the Seattle Orcas and Quinton de Kock of the Seattle Orcas make their way on to the field  during the qualifier match of Major League Cricket season 1 between the Seattle Orcas and the Texas Super Kings held at the Grand Prairie Stadium, Grand Prairie, TX, United States of America on the 27th July 2023

Photo by: Ron Gaunt/ SPORTZPICS for MLC

Seattle Orcas

The Orcas were the most consistent team in the league last year, taking a 5-1 record into the championship match. And, like MINY, they didn't do a lot of off-season roster movement. The team's core -- South Africans Heinrich Klaasan and Quinton de Kock, as well as Shayan Jayasuriya and Nauman Anwar (familiar names to fans of Minor League Cricket) -- remains intact.

Gone this year are Shimron Hetmyer and Andrew Tye. Seattle hopes to replace Hetmyer's bat -- though probably not his colorful hair -- with USA's Aaron Jones. Jones' 94 not out against Canada in the first match of the World Cup might be considered the spark that led the team to a berth in the Super Eights round. Making up Tye's lost overs will be South African Nandre Burger and West Indian Obed McCoy.

Look for the Orcas to make another strong run at the MLC title again this year.

Faf du Plessis of the Texas Super Kings  during match seven of Major League Cricket season 1 between the Texas Super Kings and MI New York held at the Grand Prairie Stadium, Grand Prairie, TX, United States of America on the 17th July 2023

Photo by: Ron Gaunt/ SPORTZPICS for MLC

Texas Super Kings

The Texas Super Kings wound up with the second-best record after the regular season, but back-to-back losses in the playoffs exposed the weaknesses that had haunted them throughout the campaign. Captain Faf du Plessis was abysmal as an opener and it seemed like they spent the early parts of every innings trying to claw back from a slow start.

So, what do you do? Well, if you're TSK, you clean house. Gone are the three of the team's top four run producers from last year -- Daniel Sams, David Miller, and Dwayne Bravo. And on the other side of the ball, gone are Gerald Coetzee and USA Cricket's Rusty Theron. That's a lot of runs and a lot of overs to make up.

Hoping to bring new life to the team and give TSK fans something to blow their whistles about are some big names: South African World Cup captain Aiden Markram, Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, who played with San Francisco last year, and Afghanistan bowler Naveen ul-Haq. Another player to keep an eye on is 19-year-old Joshua Tromp, who lit up Minor League Cricket last year with the Houston Hurricanes.

If the new names come through, look for TSK to return to the playoffs. If they struggle, though, that's a lot of added pressure on captain Faf, Devon Conway, and domestic stars Milind Kumar and Calvin Savage.

Washington Freedom take to the field  during the eliminator match of Major League Cricket season 1 between the Washington Freedom and MI New York held at the Grand Prairie Stadium, Grand Prairie, TX, United States of America on the 27th July 2023

Photo by: Ron Gaunt/ SPORTZPICS for MLC

Washington Freedom

The Freedom finished third in the league last year with a 3-2 record but were bounced in the first eliminator by the eventual champs, MINY. To make it back to the playoffs, Washington will have to deal with the departures of some big guns. Like TSK, they've seen the departure of three of their top four runs scorers from last year -- captain Moises Henriques, Matthew Short, and Glenn Phillips.

The team is in good shape, though, thanks to the addition of new captain, Australia's Steve Smith, New Zealand phenom Rachin Ravindra, and England's super solid Travis Head.

The Freedom's vicious bowling attack -- Marco Jansen, USA hero Saurabh Netravalkar, and West Indies spinner Akeal Hosein -- gets a boost from the addition of Lockie Ferguson. CricAmerica fave Dane Piedt won't be back with the team this year but look for some spin help from Amila Aponso and Akhilish Bodugum, who have both been impressive in minor league action.

Haris Rauf of the San Francisco Unicorns bowls during match fourteen of Major League Cricket season 1 between the San Francisco Unicorns and the Texas Super Kings held at Church Street Park, Morrisville, NC, United States of America on the 24th July 2023.

Photo by: Andy Mead/ SPORTZPICS for MLC

San Francisco Unicorns

The Unicorns started the 2023 campaign strongly. They left the Dallas portion of the schedule with a 2-1 record but were never able to get on track in Morrisville. They lost back-to-back matches at Church Street Park to see their playoff hopes dashed.

There are lots of new faces on the team in 2024. Captain Aaron Finch has been replaced by Australian all-around-good-guy Pat Cummins. While retaining their top run scorer in USA's Corey Anderson, the Unicorns will have a lot of runs -- and overs -- to make up with the departures of Matthew Wade and all-rounders Marcus Stoinis and Shadab Khan.

Hoping to fill that void are 22-year-old Aussie Jake Fraser-McGurk, who had a breakout Indian Premier League season for the Dehli Capitals, Matthew Short, who led the Washington Freedom in scoring last year, and Sherfane Rutherford, who just about single-handedly took down New Zealand in a vital West Indies World Cup win.

This could be an interesting year for San Francisco. Pat Cummins knows how to win; he captained Australia to titles in both the most recent World Test Championship as well as the 2023 Cricket World Cup. If he can get the Unicorns going in right direction, they could be a playoff contender.

Andre Russell of the Los Angeles Knight Riders hits over the top for six  during match eight of Major League Cricket season 1 between the Los Angeles Knight Riders and The San Francisco Unicorns held at the Grand Prairie Stadium, Grand Prairie, TX, United States of America on the 18th July 2023

Photo by: Ron Gaunt/ SPORTZPICS for MLC

Los Angeles Knight Riders

No team had more flash and less success last year than the Knight Riders. With a batting lineup that included Andre Russell, Jason Roy, Rilee Rossouw, and Unmukt Chand and a bowling attack with two of the most creative spinners on the planet -- Sunil Narine and Adam Zampa -- as well as Lockie Ferguson and Ali Khan, they were beasts…on paper.

In reality, though, nothing clicked. They limped to a 1-4 record. And it wasn't even a pretty 1-4. They lost to TSK by 69 and got bowled out for 50 in a 105-run loss to MINY.

This year, they'll have to try it all again without Rossouw, who -- along with Russell -- was the only Knight Rider to crack 100 runs. Hoping to boost the offense is David Miller, who scored 143 for TSK last year and Bangladeshi all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan. Also gone for 2024 is New Zealand quick Ferguson but LA hopes to make up the difference with Josh Little, who's had success in The Hundred and was the first Irish player to sign with the IPL.

LAKR should be better than last year. Narine had a monster year for champions KKR in the IPL -- and West Indies fans can only wonder what would have happened if he was on the 2024 T20 World Cup team! If everyone else plays somewhat up to potential, the men in purple could make a run for the playoffs.

This season the Major League Cricket schedule is bumped up to seven matches for each team and games will -- once again -- be split between Grand Prairie Stadium outside of Dallas and Church Street Park in Morrisville, North Carolina. Matches will be broadcast over the Willow cable channel and app with various regional sports networks bringing the action to those who don't have Willow.

© Steinberg 2024

Photos courtesy of Major League Cricket

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *