With the Minor League Cricket 2022 season starting this weekend, it’s time to take a deep dive into each division to recap the 2021 campaign and see the major moves of the off-season. MiLC stats guru Tom Nielsen returns with the numbers that matter to preview the season for the Western Division, starting on Saturday, June 25.
Golden State Grizzlies
2021 Performance: 12-2, 1st Place; Batting Impact of +16.3 runs per 120 balls, 2nd in Division; Bowling Impact of -18.0 runs per 120 balls, 1st in Division.
Big Additions: Anish Deshpande
Big Departures: Neeraj Goel
The Golden State Grizzlies topped an extremely competitive Western Division in 2021 with an excellent 12-2 record. They swept through the Houston Hurricanes in the playoffs before losing to division rivals Silicon Valley Strikers in the Pacific Conference finals. All three of the Grizzlies’ losses came to the Silicon Valley Strikers last year: twice in the regular season and again in the playoffs. The Grizzlies have unusually excellent player retention going into 2022, retaining 86% of their production from 2021: 94% on the batting side and 78% on the bowling side.
The only significant departure from the roster is standout bowler Neeraj Goel – and that is a significant blow to what was the best bowling attack in MiLC last year by bowling impact. Goel was third in all Minor League Cricket in Total Impact in 2021, taking 23 wickets in 62 overs at a tight economy of 5.81; all good for a Bowler Impact of -1.92 runs per over. U19 teammate Vatsal Vaghela returns and was even better in 2021 at an impact of -2.26 runs per over from his 60.2 overs and 29 wickets, but he will miss a few weeks on USA duty in the T20 squad. The trio of Zia Muhammad Shahzad, Hammad Azam, and Abheyender Singh were outstanding in 2021 and return to help Vatsal lead the bowling attack in 2022.
Hammad Azam was the MVP of Minor League Cricket in 2021 and returns for the Grizzlies after bashing 411 runs off just 223 balls last year for an otherworldly strike rate of 184. Azam had a batting impact of +12.6 runs per innings, particularly outstanding given that his bowling impact was an also excellent at -1.02 runs per over. The core of the batting lineup returns around Azam, led by Sami Aslam (500 runs in 2021) and supported by Zia Muhammad Shahzad, Karan Chandel, Mohit Nataraj, and Shivam Mishra: all of whom scored 200+ runs for the Grizzlies last year with strong positive batting impacts.
Silicon Valley Strikers
2021 Performance: 11-3, 2nd Place; Batting Impact +10.4, 2nd; Bowling Impact of -1.9, 4th
Big Additions: None
Big Departures: Abhishek Paradkar, Roshon Primus
The Silicon Valley Strikers took down the Austin Athletics, Golden State Grizzlies, and finally the New Jersey Stallions on their way to winning the inaugural Minor League Cricket championship. After the Grizzlies, the Strikers keep the most production from their 2021 roster, retaining 77% of their production (89% batting, 66% bowling).
The Strikers keep the core of their bowling attack in place for 2022 with Saurabh Netravalkar (-1.62 impact from 56.0 overs), Kulvinder Singh (-0.87 impact from 38.0 overs) and Pranay Suri (-0.44 impact from 65.2 overs). Unfortunately, Netravalkar will be unavailable most of the season on USA duty, and the Strikers lose a combined 107 overs of production as Abhishek Paradkar and Roshon Primus depart. The Strikers will need a bowler or two to step up: perhaps U19 prospect Dev Thadani, who recently participated in the extremely competitive Altius NSL 50-over competition in California. Thadani finished as the second leading wicket taker with 14 wickets from 35 overs, taking more than three wickets from each of his four matches.
The batting lineup comes into 2022 with far more certainty, headed up by two of the most outstanding batters in Minor League Cricket: Unmukt Chand (612 runs at +5.0 impact per innings) and Shehan Jayasuriya (512 runs at +3.1). The entire core of the lineup returns, including Narsingh Deonarine and USA National Teamer Rahul Jariwala. The Strikers were not one of the fastest scoring teams in 2021, but they were extremely reliable and got better as the season went on, scoring 155+ runs in each of their last nine matches (excluding a match where they chased 106).
East Bay Blazers
2021 Performance: 9-5, 3rd Place; Batting Impact +18.0, 1st; Bowling Impact of -9.5, 3rd
Big Additions: Carmi Le Roux, Angelo Perera, Abhishek Paradkar
Big Departures: Sujith Gowda, Chad Bowes, Josh Dascombe
The East Bay Blazers narrowly missed out on the playoffs in 2021, losing their last three matches – two to Golden State and one to Silicon Valley – to be knocked out of the playoff hunt despite holding the best net run rate in the division. The Blazers see a little more roster turnover than their division rivals but do make some strong additions coming into 2022.
The bowling attack was led by a three-headed monster of Rusty Theron (bowling impact of -2.11 per over), Sanjay Krishnamurthi (-1.51), and Josh Dascombe (-0.58). Dascombe departs, and Rusty will miss parts of the season on USA duty, leaving all-rounder Krishnamurthi to shoulder the load. Fortunately for the Blazers, support is incoming in the form of former US National Teamer Abhishek Paradkar from Silicon Valley as well as MiLC newcomers Carmi Le Roux and all-rounder Angelo Perera.
The Blazers carried one of the most potent batting lineups in all Minor League Cricket last year, with a team impact of +18 runs per 120 balls. The most impactful cog in that lineup was Sujith Gowda, who moves to the Dallas Mustangs after posting an outstanding +10.8 runs per innings impact in 2021. Second leading scorer David White (394 runs) returns as well as Sanjay Krishnamurthi (215 runs at 153 strike rate), and they should be supported by the aforementioned Angelo Perera, who was capped 6 times by Sri Lanka, as recently as 2019.
2021 Performance: 7-7, 4th Place; Batting Impact -10.4, 6th; Bowling Impact of -10.5, 2nd
Big Additions: Akhilesh Bodugum, Rohan Posanipally, Rishi Bhardwaj
Big Departures: Abir Chippa
Seattle was arguably the streakiest team in Minor League Cricket in 2021: after losing their first four matches, they won six straight, followed by three consecutive losses leading into a surprise season ending win against eventual champions Silicon Valley Strikers. Seattle is something of an odd team out in the Western Division, the only team outside the state of California. This is perhaps reflected in their home/away splits, as they went 5-1 in Seattle against a 2-5 record elsewhere. Seattle finished middle of the pack, behind the Northern California trio and ahead of the Southern California trio.
Seattle was led by an outstanding bowling attack that was second best in the division, restricting opponents’ totals by an average of -10.5 runs per 120 balls. Shadley Van Schalkwyk led the way with an MiLC-best bowling impact of -2.33 runs per over from his 52.0 overs. He was well-supported by Harmeet Singh at -1.57 runs per over. In 2022, Abir Chippa departs for the Chicago Blasters and is replaced by the similarly productive Akhilesh Bodugum from the Atlanta Fire. Marquee selection and all-rounder Shubham Ranjane joins what should once again be an excellent bowling attack, bringing some IPL experience with him.
The core of the Thunderbolts’ batting lineup stays intact, though it really relies on the exploits of one man: Andries Gous. Gous was outstanding for Seattle in 2021, scoring 399 runs at a 135 strike rate, good for an impact of +8.1 runs per innings. Nobody else in the lineup really broke through with significant positive impacts, but there are other reliable run scorers and additions to the squad including all-rounder Ranjane and Rishi Bhardwaj, who scored 315 runs for the Atlanta Fire. But with the third lowest strike rate in the Pacific Conference last year, Seattle will need to show more intent to improve with the bat.
San Diego Surf Riders
2021 Performance: 4-11, 5th Place; Batting Impact -2.8, 4th; Bowling Impact of +11.2, 6th
Big Additions: Khalid Zadran, Sukhwant Sekhon, Vedant Jain, Harish Kakani
Big Departures: Sid Matani, Timil Patel, Brynley Richards, Mrunal Patel
The San Diego Surf Riders won the battle of Southern California, finishing just above their rivals at the bottom of the table.
Marty Kain, Sid Matani and Timil Patel were the top bowlers for the Surf Riders in 2021, but only Marty Kain returns after bagging 10 wickets from 35 overs at an impact of -0.49 runs per over. Kain himself will also be unavailable for a spell after the first weekend on T20 duty with the National Team. Reinforcements come in the form of Khalid Zadran (13 wickets in 36 overs) from the Hollywood Master Blasters, Sukhwant Sekhon (11 wickets in 38.3 overs) from the Socal Lashings and Nikhil Dutta, formerly of the Canadian National Team.
San Diego’s batting was decent in 2021, led by Marty Kain and his 319 runs at an impact of +4.3 runs per innings. Sri Krishna led the Surf Riders in scoring last year with 344 runs and returns for 2022, while Mrunal Patel (341 runs) departs for the Hollywood Master Blasters. Marquee selection Harish Kakani joins from the Socal Lashings, where in limited action he contributed an impact of +3.3 runs per innings across the final three matches of the season.
2021 Performance: 4-11, 6th Place; Batting Impact -3.9, 5th; Bowling Impact of +16.4, 7th
Big Additions: Skanda Rohit Sharma, Jatinder Singh
Big Departures: Sukhwant Sekhon, Vedant Jain, Shamsher Singh
A challenging season ended on a high note as the SoCal Lashings won two of their last three matches. Coming into 2022, the Lashings retain 56% of their roster production.
The Lashings’ bowling attack struggled in 2021, last in the division in Total Bowling Impact. The top bowler for SoCal was Aakashveer Singh, who took 17 wickets from 48.1 overs. They will have to replace solid production from Sukhwant Sekhon and Vedant Jain, who both depart for the San Diego Surf Riders.
The batting story is a little more positive for the SoCal Lashings. Harpreet Singh was dominant for the squad last year, with an MiLC-best +14 runs per innings batting impact, highlighted by three half-centuries and a 118 (53) against the Master Blasters on the last weekend of the season. The Lashings return their second leading scorer Iftekhar Ahmed (237 runs). There are two potentially impactful newcomers to the team: Oman National Teamer Jatinder Singh and youngster Skanda Rohit Sharma, who has extensive experience already in the Northern California Cricket Association. In 50-over competition this year, Sharma has scored 392 runs at an average of 78 in the Premier A division, as well as appearing in the Altius NSL competition.
Hollywood Master Blasters
2021 Performance: 2-13, 7th Place; Batting Impact -18.2, 7th; Bowling Impact of +6.6, 5th
Big Additions: Timil Patel, Brynley Richards, Mrunal Patel
Big Departures: Khalid Zadran, Karan Viradiya, Anish Deshpande, Prithu Baskota
The Hollywood Master Blasters took up last place in the Western Division in 2021 despite handing the Silicon Valley Strikers one of their three losses on the season with a 7-wicket victory in week five. 55% of the roster’s production is retained from last season.
US National Teamer Nisarg Patel was the top bowler for the Master Blasters in 2021 in limited action, taking eight wickets from 32 overs, good for a bowling impact of -1.35 runs per over. Basant Regmi returns after being the most-used bowler in 2021, taking 9 wickets from 47.5 overs at an impact of -0.35 runs per over. Timil Patel comes over from the San Diego Surf Riders, where he took an excellent 18 wickets from 51 overs, swapping places with the departing Khalid Zadran.
The top batter for the Master Blasters last year was Cody Chetty, tenth in Minor League Cricket last year with 470 runs scored and will get support in 2022 from Mrunal Patel (341 runs), who joins from the San Diego Surf Riders. The Master Blasters will need to get batting support from elsewhere: Brynley Richards joins from San Diego, and all-rounders Timil and Nisarg Patel could provide some runs down the order.