One of the most admired players on the USA national Men’s Team, Aditya Thyagarajan is always in the game mentally and physically, so it was very painful when he injured his knee and the USA lost to Denmark in the recent ICC WCL Division 3 Tournament in Hong Kong.
Here Aditya responds to questions posed by newyorkcricket.com
Newyorkcricket: What does it mean to you to be representing the USA at cricket, and on the international scene?
Thyagarajan: I first played for United States against Cayman Islands in November 2003 in Florida under the captaincy of Richard Staple. It was a rained out game and I never got to bat or bowl. I then got my chance after clearing all ICC eligibility requirements in 2008 and since then it’s been a great four years with a lot of ups and downs. I play every game for the United States like it is a do or die game. Playing for this country is an honor and it means a lot to me. There is pressure to perform and expectations to live up to. The USA has a lot of talented players and if I don’t focus and play with commitment somebody else could take my spot.
Newyorkcricket: As a player, what’s your vision for cricket in America?
Thyagarajan:I have been playing cricket in the Southern California Cricket league (Los Angeles) for 10 years now. My vision is for our administrators to take cricket into schools and colleges all over the country and excite the youth about the game. Someday I hope to see our players get professional contracts who can then play cricket on a daily basis and take USA back to ICC Associate Division 1, and then into the World Cup. We need to get the locals excited about the game. Various organizations are trying to do this and I wish them all the best.
Newyorkcricket: Do you think that the USA cricket gets a bad rap, and if so in what way?
Thyagarajan:Yes. I feel that sometimes USA gets a bad image in front of ICC for not being as professional as they would like us to be.
But, mind you this is not an easy job. For people in the USACA to work as volunteers to organize tournaments, camps, etc., in a large country like USA is very difficult.
Many of us sit and criticize these people but if we had to do the same job I am not sure if we could do it any better.
But, yeah we need to improve more and continue to have domestic tournaments, get central contracts and so on. Teams like Ireland, the Netherlands, and Scotland have done this and their continued success should be a motivation for us too.
Newyorkcricket: What do you think USACA can do to improve the quality of the USA national teams?
Thyagarajan: This is a very broad question. Like every Associate Member nation which has to do a bunch of things to improve their national teams, we have to do some work on our end too. In my opinion some of the initiatives which can improve our cricket are – 1) Appointing a paid coaching staff. 2) Coming up with a development plan for our youths and maybe sending them abroad to Test -Playing nations to hone their skills and improve further. 3) Preparing our national teams better by making us play in the West Indies domestic tournaments and having at least a two-week camp overseas before a major ICC tournaments.
Many of the countries I meet on tour have these things going on and are definitely doing better than us with less talent.
I know our administration is trying their best with the resources they have at their disposal and again I wish them nothing but the best.
Newyorkcricket: What is your greatest disappointment as a member of the USA National XI?
Thyagarajan: My greatest disappointment was the loss to Denmark in ICC Division 4 in January 2011. The upset really derailed our chances of going up to Division 2. The team was upbeat after beating eventual champions Hong Kong in the first game in their own back yard. The disappointment continued for me as I learnt that evening that I was out of the tournament due to a knee injury. All that hard work I had put in with my trainer in the winter in Santa Barbara had gone to waste. I will never forget this day and the loss to Denmark is the biggest motivation factor for me while I undergo physical therapy.
Newyorkcricket: What do you like most about playing and/or traveling with the USA national cricket team?
Thyagarajan: We are a close knit team where the core group has been together for the last four years, or so. We won three tournaments during this period. The challenge posed by different nations brings the best out of me. I personally look forward to these tours and try to do well to help USA win. The travel is fun too; sometimes a little long. Nepal to Los Angeles took me about 40 hours or so. But, all in all, it has been a great experience so far, playing 50 odd games for USA which I would not change for anything.
Newyorkcricket: As a national player, how do you stay focused amidst all of the politics surrounding USA cricket?
Thyagarajan: I live in a remote place – Santa Barbara. This helps me stay out of the politics. On a serious note, I don’t pay much attention to it as it is part and parcel of international sports in any country. India has politics, Australia has politics, and so does the USA. You can’t think about it. You just have to work hard and let your numbers speak for themselves on the field.
Newyorkcricket: What, if any contribution do you see yourself making to the sport in the USA, when you are no longer representing the country?
Thyagarajan: I see myself playing the role of a mentor or a coach. I can work with players and help them improve their games. My experience with USA, India Under-19 and Karnataka should help me bring a lot of things to the table. I want to create cricketers who will not only excel in their leagues but will have the mental strength to win tournaments for USA at the ICC stage.
Newyorkcricket: If you were not representing the USA, which other country would you have liked to represent in cricket?
Newyorkcricket: What other sport do you play or enjoy?
Thyagarajan: I played badminton and basket ball for my college (BMS College of Engineering) in Bangalore, India. My parents who were both National badminton players encouraged us to play sports while we were growing up. Sports and education has had equal importance for me and my brother.
Newyorkcricket: Which of your fellow national team members do you admire the most, and why?
Thyagarajan: This is a very tough question and to some extent controversial too -J I will still try and name one player who I admire the most.
I would say Usman Shuja, the reason being that Usman and I are similar kinds of players. We are not super talented; we play to our strengths, and have specific roles in the team which we try to fulfill.
Newyorkcricket: Can you remember the moment you found out you had been picked for USA senior team?
Thyagarajan: I got an email from Mr. Caesar in 2008 before the ICC WCL Division 5 tour to Jersey. It was a very happy moment for me.
Newyorkcricket: How big an achievement was it to play for the USA senior team?
Thyagarajan: I consider it a great achievement to play for the USA team. While I was doing my Masters in Computer Science at UC, Santa Barbara between 2001 and 2003, friends and team mates would always tell me that I will play for the USA some day. I never used to believe them. Consistent performances for my club (Hollywood CC) and the South West Region instilled confidence in me that I can play for the country some day. It has been an honor and I am working hard towards getting back into prime fitness so I can get back into the National team and continue to perform at that level.
Newyorkcricket: Tell us how you got started playing cricket?
Thyagarajan: As I said, my parents both played badminton at the national level in India and encouraged us to play sports as kids. Cricket is a religion in India. I started playing when I was five years old. I was a medium pacer who could bat then I turned into a leg spinner/batsman and represented Karnataka and India at the junior levels, before being selected as a batsman for the USA. It has been a long fun journey.
Newyorkcricket: What are your memories of growing up in Nagpur, India?
Thyagarajan: I have a special attachment to Nagpur. I was born there. My parents are from there. My wife Renuka is from here. I lived there only until the age of five, but I did learn cricket there. My first coaching camp was in Kasturchand Park in Nagpur. Whenever I visit India, I make it a point to go to Nagpur which will always be close to my heart. Nagpur is called the city of Oranges so whenever I am there I make it a point to eat a few oranges.