With Minor League Cricket (MLC) set to be launched shortly in the USA with ten franchises, usacricketers.com checked in with one of the recently announced franchise co-owners Abhimanyu Rajp of SoCal Lashings, with a few questions. Mr. Rajp is a former USA national cricketer and has represented the country internationally.
What is the process for becoming a team owner in Minor League Cricket?
I cannot speak about others, but for both Deepak (Deepak Gosain) and I (Lashings), it was a very rigorous process. We had been preparing for this bid (to become team owners) from late last year. We had to submit a business proposal with all relevant information: financials, ownership structure, advisory committee members, selectors, prospective coaches, etc. I think the most important factor was our will and our passion for doing it from a player’s perspective. Being a former USA national player and having played at every single level US cricket had to offer to me, I have seen all the ups and downs of how cricket is administered in the USA, so that helped in our bid.
You have played competitive cricket around the world, how differently do you see your new role as a team co-owner?
I don’t know yet. What I do know is that I will make mistakes and will need to adapt quickly and learn from those setbacks. Deepak nor I have ever been team owners of this magnitude, so it’s definitely an exciting ride for sure. We are thankful to MLC for this opportunity. What I do know is that I want a non-biased approach towards all aspects of our team, be it in administration or on the field. I hail from those grassroots where merit is regarded above all else, and that is what I know lacks now and then no matter the level of cricket I have played or the places that I have played. We want to build a family of players, show them a pathway for their national/professional level dreams, and help them in any way possible. I have done it at that level, and I know I can help others.
Why did you invest in a cricket team in MLC, and what challenges do you foresee?
You cannot change anything from the outside. You have to step in and try yourself. Whether one is successful or not, the effort is needed, and actions are required. I think that the Minor League has the potential of becoming the professional domestic T20 structure for the United States and feeding players to our national squad, Major League, GT20, CPL, etc., in the future. In the long-run, I would compare it to the T20 variant of other domestic tournaments around the world (Ranji/Sheffield/County, etc.,). We wanted to be a part of this story from the beginning. I see a plethora of challenges to come, for example, infrastructure, pro-players, academies and building a cricket ecosystem, etc. But I believe the main challenge that we have on our hands is how to change the mentality of a league/club cricketer to push their limits and make the players understand that collective success will help all of us, and we need to share the limelight. Currently, in my opinion, USA cricket has too much individuality and not enough cohesiveness.
Who is Deepak Gosain, the other owner of the SoCal Lashings?
Deepak by profession is a businessman and a cricketer by passion. He has played a decent level/amount of cricket. What I like most about him is that he is a selfless individual who fights very hard on the field. I have seen this man take an ordinary team (CSUF) from the bottom division to becoming a Division 1 champion in the Southern California Cricket Association (SCCA), no easy task. He loves to share the limelight and put players forward and he provides the fuel for their fire. He has also been a past captain of the SCCA senior team. Deepak and I have been good friends for a while now, and I hope this bond grows stronger with this partnership. Let’s just say he is a man of his word, a rare quality.
Who are some of the players drafted by the SoCal Lashings franchise?
For the 2020 exhibition matches, we have secured all local domestic players who have outshined the competition in our selection zones. Names that one doesn’t hear about on a national level much but should. You can blame that on the lack of any national tournaments or regional matches. Some of the players in our line up include former first-class and current national players such as Gayan Fernando (Sri Lanka), Kalyan Madireddy (Hyderabad), Hammad Shahid (USA), and Kaniskha Chaugai (a 3X Under-19 World Cup player and former Nepal Captain) to name a few. We have a great mix of players on our roster. We wanted to make sure we picked a good diverse group and help each other get better. Next year, we will focus our attention on some professional players to improve the squad and elevate the game further.
Are there any age limits or other requirements for drafting players into the SoCal Lashings team?
Fielding is an essential aspect of Lashings, something that is almost always missing from a league/club level team. We want players who take pride in their fielding skills. I have noticed in my career so far that better fielders usually make up for a more disciplined cricketer. As far as the age limit is concerned; Yes, MLC has mandated that we have a total of three U-21 players in our arsenal and rightfully so. So in our region, for example, there are three teams, so a total of nine Under-21 players will be in the three squads.
What are some of your plans for creating positive experiences for players on the SoCal Lashings team?
Positivity comes from the atmosphere around us. We are still working out the kinks and structure, deprioritized due to COVID, but it’s one of our priorities in 2021. We are treating 2020 as a launching pad for the players we want to retain for the full 2021 season but also who show us the most hunger in these exhibition games if they do happen.
What are you looking forward to the most in the first season of the tournament?
Everything is so uncertain (due to COVID) that I can’t pinpoint any one specific thing. Right now, the most significant challenge that Deepak and I face is to make sure that our players understand the magnitude of cricket they are about to experience. I do not think players fully understand what Minor League Cricket will do for cricket here in the USA.