Exclusive Interview
Here is our interview with USA player Aditya Thyagarajan who recently announced his retirement from international cricket.

Aditya Thyagarajan (third from left) with Sushil Nadkarni, Steve Massiah and Usman Shuja.

Reflecting on your involvement in cricket. At what age did you start playing cricket, and where?

I started playing in Nagpur when I was 4 years old. My Grand Father who worked for Reliance at the time bought a cricket kit for me from Mumbai and it all started there. He also made a cricket turf pitch at his house for me to practice and learn the game.

Do you remember when you scored your first century, and where?
I think I scored my first 100 in a camp game in Bangalore. It was when I was part of the Brijesh Patel Cricket Clinic. I was 12 years old at the time.

What are some of the clubs you have played for along the way?
I learnt my game at Friends Union Cricket Club (FUCC) under Mr. N. Doraiswamy. In India. That was my only club in India, and I played for them for eight years. In Los Angeles, I have played for Hollywood Cricket Club since 2001. These two clubs were influential in my growth as a cricketer and a human being. I cannot thank them enough. As you can see, I believe in loyalty and am not someone who changes clubs for money or growth.

Do you believe you have influenced any of the younger players on Team USA, and whose success have you enjoyed the most?
That’s for the younger players to say. I think I have tried my best to help youngsters like Ravi Timbawala, Arjun Thyagarajan, Ritesh Kadu, Aditya Mishra, Fahad Babar and Adil Bhatti. I am very happy to see Fahad, Danial and Adil do well for the US. I believe Timil can be someone around whom USA can build a team around to compete.

Aditya Thyagarajan celebrates with Sushil Nadkarni after USA win over Nepal in 2010.

How and when did you reach the decision to retire from a sport you appear to be still enjoying?

During the last tour of Malaysia (ICC WCL Div 3 in Oct, 2014), I got this feeling that I am not the same player in terms of skills, fitness and ability to perform under pressure. I tried my best to perform one last time for USA and help the team. It was purely due to performance that I decided to step away and let a younger and more skilled player take up the 5/6 spot and win games for the country.

Was celebrating your 36th birthday today a major part of your decision to retire?
I don’t think so. I think it was purely cricketing ability and form. I don’t want to be a liability to a team I helped win numerous tournaments.

What’s been your greatest satisfactory moment as a USA cricketer?
An unbeaten 48 run partnership with Sushil Nadkarni in the ICC WCL Div 5 tournament in Nepal against Nepal and in front of 25,000 amidst riots and unbelievable scenes of uneasiness. We had to win the game in 34 overs on a rank turning track to progress to Div 4.
Another would be an unbeaten 84* to beat a World Cup returning Canada team in 2008 to with the Americas Cup on a difficult Florida wicket, and finally an unbeaten 72* (world record T20 seventh-wicket partnership with Orlando Baker), and against a strong Ireland team in 2010. Those moments have given me immense satisfaction.

Aditya Thyagarajan bats during USACA Nationals in August. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

Are you happy with the way your cricketing career turned out?

I am very happy. My main goal was to help USA win tournaments and I was able to accomplish that.
Winning matches from lost situations gave me a lot of satisfaction and pride.

What has been your biggest regret or disappointment, if any, as a member of the US national team?
My injury in 2011 when I was on top of my game. It was a month after I had won the 2010 Cricketer of the Year and the Best Batsman award. I feel like I could have contributed to the team for a few years. I tried hard but could not come back with the same confidence and fitness, and let the team down.

How would you describe the opportunity to play for Team USA? Would you say your cricketing journey has been like a dream?
Playing for Team USA was an amazing feeling. I played my first game in November 2003 and my last game in October 2014. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank Steve Massiah (Captain) and Clayton Lambert (Coach) in believing in my abilities. It was only due to the confidence they gave me, that I was able to perform at a high level and win games. Without their help, I would have had an ordinary career.

Assuming you will continue to play within the US domestic cricketing circuit, what are you going to miss the most about international cricket?
I will miss the challenge of traveling to new countries, playing in difficult situations, and I will surely miss the dressing room camaraderie. I will greatly miss Sushil Nadkarni with whom I shared a room for close to 15 international tours. He is a great guy and one of America’s best ever cricketers. I will miss playing on the same team with players like Steve, Usman, Ghous, Marshall, Baker and Tim Allen. I will always remember the team we formed with that core and some of the past players like Wright, Cush, Darlington, Dhaniram and Imran Awan. That team under Lambert did well and had even more potential.

You must have given it some serious thought, but has it sunk in yet that you will no longer be playing for the USA?
As I said, I didn’t want to be a liability on the team. It was an easy decision. I truly believe there are better players than me in the country who can win games at the 5/6 position.

What has been your family’s reaction to your retirement?
I think they feel it is the right time. They have seen me trying to juggle work and prepare for the last few tournaments. It’s not easy.

Aditya Thyagarajan with Steve Massiah during USA clash with Nepal back in 2010.

How much, if any, did the US dropping down to WCL Division 4 impact your decision to retire?

It did not have any impact. As I said, there are players who can do what I did in the past.

What do you believe is the major reason for USA not being able to advance to WCL Division 2?
We have to have proper training, preparation camps and match practice. We did well in the past due to having played in the Red Stripe tournament, Americas Cup, Pearls Cup, etc.
When you play together, you understand who can do what and win close games. Luck also favors a team which is prepared.
I always believe that if you fail to prepare, then you must prepare to fail.
In this crucial juncture, USA has some young talented players. They need proper training and matches to perform. In the past we depended on former first-class and junior internationals like myself, Steve, Sushil, Wright, etc., to win games. Now is the time to come up with a structure. Someone like Sakhi from Houston has so much passion. He should be given a chance to help.

What are your candid views on the current state of cricket in the USA?
I feel like we need more money coming into USACA, and competent people who can help build a structure.
Without a structure our cricket will not advance. In this day and age, talent does not mean much. It’s all about execution and it comes with having a proper structure.

Are you supportive of the concept of foreign coaches, hired on a per tournament basis?
The current team needs someone like Robin Singh. However, he needs to spend more time in America. I had a detailed chat with Robin and he agrees.
Mark my words – USACA is very fortunate to have someone like Robin who is taking personal interest in cricket in this country. If he can be utilized in the right way, he can make a major difference.
Robin and I may not have had the greatest camaraderie on tour since I was not able to reach the fitness level required by him nor win any games when he was coach, but, again I would like to reiterate that he is one of the best coaches in the world, and is one of the most unbiased people I have ever met. USACA needs to find a way to keep him interested. Again, someone like Sakhi who has the passion can help with structure. The current crop is green without too much past first-class experience. Someone like Robin can teach them the finer points of the game which are needed to win games at the next level.

How was your first morning as a retired cricketer?
It was awesome. I look back and I am very happy with my cricket career. I played with honesty, had no bias, worked hard and helped my teams win games in India and the USA.
I cannot ask for much more.

I would also like to thank newyorkcricket.com and individuals like Peter Della Penna that tirelessly follow and support cricket in the US. Without such support and coverage, we would never be able to express ourselves. Keep it going!