Meet wicketkeeper/batsman and New York City marathon runner Francis Mendonca, one of the hardest working and dedicated individuals in USA cricket. He joined the New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers for a limited engagement in the recently concluded set of USA Minor League Cricket (MiLC) exhibition matches. USAcricketers.com asked him a few questions regarding MiLC, and below are his responses.
Describe some of your experiences in the recently concluded Minor League Cricket exhibition matches.
It was a great learning experience for me. I look forward to being part of the New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers. I want to thank my captain Muhammad Asad Ghous, team owner Aslam Khan, and coach Pubudu Dassanayake, for giving me the opportunity denied elsewhere. I had great teammates; we played together and came out on the winning side.
What was your most memorable moment during the recent MiLC matches?
One of the most memorable moments for me was taking a one-handed catch while diving to my right. In the process, I dismissed Jaladh Dua, a quality Empire State Titans batsman, off the bowling of Shawn Findlay. The catch helped my team secure the victory.
How was your overall performance in the matches and would you do anything differently if given a chance to replay any one of the 2020 exhibition matches?
I feel happy about my performance with my glove work. Of course, there’s always room for improvement and some little things that I need to fine-tune. With practice, I am sure to achieve that. I got a couple of opportunities to bat, and both times were not out, with 17 being my highest score at number 8. Being an opening batsman, you have to adapt and make adjustments. I’m pleased with my contributions to all three matches I played, and we won and finished at the top of our table.
How different was the experience playing for a franchise team than your usual club or local team?
Playing in a professional league for an organization like New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers is a privilege. It’s a team that has achieved so much at the club level and various tournaments. It was an excellent opportunity for me, surrounded by many other talented cricketers and international players. Compared to the club level, you might not see as many international players. The cricket standard in a professional league is higher and more organized, and the cricket quality will always be better.
How did you prepare for the matches during the current COVID-19 pandemic?
With the gyms closed and marathons and other races canceled this year, I continued to log miles in the streets and on the track. I did whatever exercises would keep me conditioned throughout the pandemic. More so, because we had no idea if any cricket was possible this year. In the end, we did get some cricket in the New York National Cricket League, which helped immensely.
What improvements, if any, would you like to see implemented during the upcoming 2021 Minor League Cricket season?
I think overall, the standard of cricket was good. If anything needs improvement, that’s for the organizers, management, and the people involved in Minor League Cricket to decide. I can’t pinpoint anything at the moment.
Is there any particular area that team owners of Minor League Cricket needs to improve that would benefit the league?
I cannot speak for the other minor league team owners. The New Jersey Somerset Cavaliers has been nothing but welcoming and positive, and I wouldn’t ask them to change anything.
Should more under-21 players be added to the roster of each franchise?
No, I don’t believe so, with a squad already of 18-20 players or so and only 11 being able to play. Our squad had perhaps four or five if I’m not mistaken, maybe more, and all of which are talented, but all cannot play. Still, I’m sure it was a learning experience for all of them being around a top coach like Pubudu Dassanayake.
What would attract more fans to any matches of the franchise to which you belong?
If the matches are shown on WillowTV or local TV channels, and with ads on TV channels such as ESPN, it would help attract more fans.
What is one positive non-cricket experience you took away from your participation in the exhibition matches?
It was a very positive experience being a part of such a professional organization and rubbing shoulders with pro cricketers. I watched and learned how they play the game; I gained more knowledge as a player and improved my own game. It’s all about gaining more exposure and experience as a cricketer and in life.