Former Canadian star, Nitish Kumar, selected for United States

Nitish Kumar started his international career appearing in a First Class match at the tender age of 15. However, he was already known to many in the cricket community as a bright young prospect of which great things were expected. A string of firsts continued, appearing as the youngest member of Canada’s under 19 squad at the 2010 ICC Youth World Cup. Later that year, Canada’s national team selectors decided on a youth movement in advance of the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Nitish was among a group of promising members from the junior team to be called into the senior side. A few months later, Kumar stepped onto the field in Nagpur in Canada’s match with Zimbabwe to become the youngest-ever World Cup debutant at the time – aged 16 years, 283 days. He went on to play six WC matches and represents the last member of that Canadian team still active internationally. It had been a dream start for one so young.

There followed a brief period when Kumar regularly played at the highest level of Associate cricket. The youngster gained valuable experience as Canada played World Cricket League one day internationals, Intercontinental Cup First Class and T20 international matches against the likes of the Netherlands, Scotland as well as future Test sides Afghanistan and Ireland. However with Kumar not yet 20, the national team suffered a setback in the 2015 WC Qualifiers, not only failing to advance to a fourth consecutive World Cup but also dropping out of the top tier of Associate nations. The team pursued a long road back playing less frequently in the second division of the World Cricket League. After two successive narrow misses in returning to the Associate elite, Canada were assigned to the Challenge League in 2019. Nitish played what would be his last tournament in Canadian colours at the 2019 Cricket West Indies Super 50. Still only 25 years old, prospects of a professional career seems bleak for the young man.

Kumar’s American journey began in 2021 when he relocated to Houston, Texas in search of full-time cricket. South of the border, a series of prize money tournaments, including Minor League Cricket and eventually the lucrative Major League Cricket tournaments, were on offer. While satisfying the residency requirement to represent the United States, Nitish put up strong performances in local leagues, garnering the attention of selectors. Invitations to the 2024 National T20 Championship and the following national team training camp were the final hurdles to be cleared. Canadian born and raised Nitish Kumar was named to USA Cricket’s mens T20 team.

Kumar’s first opportunity to play for his new homeland ironically comes against the land of his birth. Canada travels to Houston in April to play the Americans in a T20I series as both teams prepare for their first T20 World Cup. A T20I tri-series involving the two sides and the United Arab Emirates is scheduled for May. If Kumar succeeds with his new country, there is the prospect of a return to an ICC World Cup thirteen years after his first. Were he to face Canada in the tournament’s June opener, he would be a twelfth Canadian on the pitch. Viewed in this light, while his switch of allegiances is a loss to Canadian cricket, it demonstrates Canada’s potential to produce internationally-recognized talent.

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