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The part-time heroes behind US cricket’s historic win

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Charging in with a leather ball in his hand, about to create cricket history, was a software engineer on leave from his day job.
Seconds later, Saurabh Netravalkar’s arms were raised to the sky in the steaming hot Texas sun.
The tall left-arm pace bowler had secured a historic win for Team USA, leading the 18th ranked underdogs to an overtime victory (called a super over in this shortened version of the sport) over Pakistan in the T20 World Cup on Thursday.
When the Indian expat came to America in 2015 to study a masters in computer engineering at the prestigious Cornell University, he didn’t even pack his cricket shoes.
Team USA is made up of characters like Netravalkar, whose LinkedIn account currently says “principal member of technical staff at Oracle, professional cricketer”.
His team-mate Nosthush Kenjige performed 800 hours of community service just so he could be eligible to play for the US.
And now they are local heroes and Team USA is perched at the top of its World Cup group, ahead of tournament favourites India and sixth-ranked Pakistan.

For USA Cricket team manager Kerk Higgins, this is the first phase of what he thinks will be a deep push in the World Cup co-hosted by the US and the West Indies. His goal is to get out of the group stage and into the Super 8s.
Speaking to the BBC just minutes after the historic game, Higgins said the massive win was still sinking in and that the “energy is very high”.
“I always said that we could beat a top nation. I saw the way the boys are playing over the last month or so. This is not really surprising to me,” he said.
Most Americans were oblivious to the magnitude of their team’s victory, unaware there was even a cricket World Cup going on in their country.
US player Aaron Jones told the BBC the “really big” win would “open the eyes” of Americans not following the sport.
And that’s the hope for the International Cricket Council (ICC) as it tries to get a foothold in the world’s biggest sports market, where fans are more accustomed to Super Bowls than super overs.

School teacher Ricky Kissoon, who helps run the New York Big Apple Cricket league, said the US win over Pakistan was a “big deal” for helping the next generation fall in love with the sport.
“I saw that there are a lot of young players that are coming through the school system, and after the school cricket is over, they don’t have an opportunity to play,” he told the BBC.
The league has nine teams, up from eight last season.
“A lot of the kids out there, they’re excited, especially with the World Cup on right now,” he said.
Mr Kissoon says cricket is slowly growing in New York, particularly in the “melting pot” of ex-pat communities who miss playing their favourite sport.
“It’s growing, you may not see a lot of mainstream Americans, but they’re trickling in. And that’s a win,” he said.

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