Harmeet Singh: The road to 2026 World Cup must start now

England

The euphoria of beating Pakistan and qualifying for the Super Eight is now over. USA’s World Cup has ended with two resounding defeats on a slow surface in Barbados. While teams are naturally better prepared to face USA now, there is also an element of batters used to training indoors not adjusting quickly to a slower pitch. In both these matches, they made a decent start in the powerplay before falling apart in the middle overs.

And according to Harmeet Singh, the USA allrounder, if the team is to improve between now and and the next T20 World Cup in India in 2026, for which they have automatically qualified, they will need to improve their outdoors infrastructure.

“For the whole group, we just need infrastructure to practise better, to train better,” Harmeet said. “We need the whole system in place. Trainers need to be able to work with us all year even if remotely. If you see England, Australia, all the destinations, they have incredible infrastructure in every state. Being indoors doesn’t help. We need a lot more outdoor set-ups, need good training facilities.

“Stadiums are coming up, but the short-term goal should be building a lot of infrastructure for guys to be able to train so that the whole grassroot [cricketers get to train better] and our bench strength also builds with that. Playing franchise cricket will help, but it will help four, five, six guys who might play, but to build a cricket-playing nation, we need a lot more infrastructure.”

The nature of the sport is that associate teams don’t get to play the amount of cricket that is required to get better. It can become a vicious cycle that ends up in underwhelming performances if you play straight in tournaments, which in turn leads to calls for World Cups to become smaller. To be able to play regularly against bigger opponents, you have to be a big commercial draw, which USA currently aren’t.

However, Harmeet believes that the last month or so has helped cricket reach beyond the Asian diaspora, which is why it is all the more important for USA to capitalise on the current mood with the right infrastructure.

“The cricketing community is large, especially in Texas where I come from, or New Jersey as well,” Harmeet said. “Seattle has a big cricket community. The west coast, the overall California area, everywhere, there is a lot of cricket going on. It’s just that we don’t have enough turf practice facilities everywhere. We just have kids practising in indoors.

“Let’s say being a professional cricketer [before moving to the US], I can manage going from indoor to outdoors. I know the differences. Kids when they practise indoor, they go outdoors straight away on turf pitches, and there’s no feet, nothing. So all that needs to change and hopefully in near future we have a lot more practice facilities than just building grounds. Go to India or anywhere in a Test-playing nation, we have so many grounds to practise. All the academies are outdoor academies and then you go indoors [only] when it’s raining.

“I know parents who spend a lot of money on their kids to train, but then the problem lies is when you are just doing indoors, the growth is standard, it’s not a lot of growth. And then when they go outdoors, the kids feel the heat. ‘Oh it’s hot.’ It’s supposed to be hot.”

But it’s not just at the grassroots level, but at the top too, that USA need to catch this wave of momentum. “There’s a lot to learn and everybody has come a long way from where we started,” Harmeet said. “And then there’s a lot of confidence also in the team that we’ve battled against the best. And when we were at our best, we did push them to the line. So I think there’s so much to learn.

“The work starts now,” he added. “Not tomorrow, the work starts now in our heads. We need to think how we are going to be at the 2026 World Cup. And then from now to then, the journey needs to be from us personally putting in the work and then USA Cricket also providing us lots and lots of games and training opportunities. And then franchise cricket [for those who can]. And then putting that preparation into the 2026 World Cup and get the best result.”

Sidharth Monga is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo

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