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If USA qualify for T20 World Cup this year, it will be a massive achievement for us: Vice-captain Jones

Harare, July 10 (IANS) United States cricket team vice-captain Aaron Jones believes qualifying for the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia later this year will open a whole lot of avenues for the game in the country, not only for the current lot but also for the future generations.

In order to make it to the 20-over showcase in October-November this year, the USA must first negotiate a tough qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe and finish in the top two at the Qualifier B event that commences on Monday.

It won’t be easy, with USA taking on Jersey, Singapore and the hosts in the group stage of the eight-team tournament before a possible semifinal clash against a different opponent from the opposing group.

But Jones is confident in his team’s ability, with USA having displayed their abilities with impressive performances during two warm-up wins against Jersey earlier this month.

Qualifying for the T20 World Cup for USA would be huge, given that they will feature in the 2024 event as tournament hosts.

“If we could get to World Cup so you get to the highest level of cricket, to compete with the West Indies, Australia, India, all the teams that are playing full member cricket for sure, it would open a lot of doors,” Jones was quoted as saying by ICC ahead of the opening game. “Not only for us but definitely the youngsters coming up in the USA. We know for sure that the USA is a big, big market in terms of fans that watch and support cricket.

“So we really, truly, want to get to the next level for them and for the youngsters coming up behind us as well. It would definitely be a dream come true, I mean, the World Cup is the highest stage. I don’t think you can get any bigger than a World Cup as a professional cricketer.

“So I definitely want to play in the next World Cup for sure, as long as we get through these qualifiers, it’s going to be a dream come true,” he added.

While Jones was born in New York, he moved to the Caribbean at the age of four and has many friends and former team-mates that play with Barbados domestically and West Indies at international level. The 27-year-old said that is giving him further incentive to perform well during the upcoming qualifier event as he knows he will have plenty of people he knows watching on.

“I also have some friends playing in the World Cup as well. Obviously, I’ve grown up in the Caribbean so if we played against the West Indies, then I would be playing against some of my friends so that would be a good experience as well,” he said.

“I played with some of them at school. The guys that are from Barbados, I played with them at youth levels and stuff like that. And some of them I played against them in first-class cricket back home in the Caribbean and List A cricket and stuff like that too.”

Jones is the second leading run-scorer for the USA in both T20Is and ODIs and knows the pressure will be on him to perform well in Zimbabwe. “I would say that I like to put a bit of pressure on myself as well,” Jones said.

“I think that brings out the best in me, so me being the vice-captain, I want to be the leading batsman in the team. I always tend to tell myself that I need to do the job for the team. I just like to keep it as simple as possible.”

USA squad: Monank Patel (c), Aaron Jones, Ali Khan, Cameron Stevenson, Gajanand Singh, Jaskaran Malhotra, Marty Kain, Nisarg Patel, Rusty Theron, Saurabh Netravalkar, Steven Taylor, Sushant Modani, Yasir Mohammed, Vatsal Vaghela.




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