Rain lashed the carefully manicured grass in the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida on Friday. Not a single ball was bowled in the match between hosts United States and Ireland before the game was called off due to the weather.

This was to be the last game for the USA in the group stage of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024. But this will not be the last time they will compete in the tournament they are co-hosting with the West Indies.

The debutant USA team, marshalled by Monank Patel, secured a Super Eight berth at the T20 World Cup, alongside India in Group A after picking up a point from the abandoned match against Ireland.

While some hearts fluttered, some shattered. Last year’s finalists Pakistan were knocked out – their undercooked and mercurial nature is to be blamed. But it is also as a result of the unexpected rise of the USA team in the tournament.

Following their series triumphs over Bangladesh and Canada in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup, USA demonstrated that their pre-tournament success was no flash in the pan, when they shocked Pakistan at the Grand Prairie Stadium in Dallas, Texas.

The hosts had recorded a win on T20 World Cup debut with their impressive come-from-behind victory over Canada in their tournament opener, but they showcased seasoned professionalism to narrowly defeat Pakistan – a two-time finalist and the 2009 winners.

With an exhilarating start to their World Cup campaign, it looked like the USA were on to something early on.

The win over Pakistan marked the first major upset of the T20 World Cup and ensured USA had two victories from two games, boosting their confidence.

During that famous win, they resisted pressure admirably, fighting until the very end. Eventually, it was their composed demeanour that prevailed.

With Ireland struggling at the bottom of the table following defeats to India and Canada, the USA appeared to be clear favorites even before the confirmation of their qualification on Friday.

Before the tournament began, USA pacer Ali Khan had made their intent to cause some upsets clear. Sure, the win over Pakistan was an upset big enough but to knock them out entirely was unexpected, indeed.

“We are hungry, and we are determined to overcome any obstacle in our path,” Khan had said. “I’m confident that the USA will cause some upsets in the World Cup.”

They substantiated their pre-tournament assertions of being able to overcome the oppositions they encounter.

While upsets in Twenty20 cricket are not uncommon, beating the Indian team was going to be a huge challenge.

They hadn’t faced India in any format, and in New York, they were going to come face-to-face with an Indian squad brimming with T20 and Indian Premier League veterans.

India, expectedly won, by seven wickets. However, it was USA’s ability to ensure India would not run away with the match that spoke volumes about the formidable force they are steadily becoming.

Pacer Saurabh Netravalkar – whose stocks rose during the tournament – might find himself extending his ‘out of office’ notice.

Also read:
ICC Men’s T20 World Cup: Saurabh Netravalkar’s journey from an Indian hopeful to a USA cricket star

As cricket tries to find its footing in the American market amongst baseball, the National Basketball Association, or NBA, and the National Football League or NFL, the national cricket team’s success in their debut at the T20 World Cup is bound to attract the spotlight.

This heightened visibility not only helps tap and expand the market but also offers many aspiring cricketers role models like Netravalkar and Khan to look up to.

Netravalkar and Khan, who have roots in India and Pakistan respectively, are only two examples among the group of players hailing from varied cultural backgrounds that mirror the multicultural essence of America.

The growth of cricket in USA might have been a big goal ahead of the World Cup, but it was the unexpected success of its team in the tournament could certainly become a big factor for it.

And by securing a spot in the Super Eight, the hosts have ensured qualification for the next edition of the T20 World Cup as well. This is certainly not a one-off for the American team.