January 2019 is regarded as one of the most iconic months in the United States of America's cricketing folklore. USA Cricket was officially granted associate membership by the ICC in 2019, less than two years after the future of cricket in the country found itself in muddled waters owing to governance and financial issues.
In April the same year, USA finished fourth on the ICC World Cricket League Division Two points table and qualified for the 2019-22 ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 competition.
Since then, India and West Indies played two T20Is in Florida and USA hosted their first-ever ODI tri-series which involved Namibia and Papa New Guinea. With six wins from 12 games in the League 2 competition, USA are placed second on the points table and stand a realistic chance of making the 2022 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers.
With cricket in USA charting an upward trajectory over the past few months, the officials at USA cricket have added a host of big names to their support staff roster. One among them is former Karnataka cricketer, Jagadeesh Arunkumar.
Fondly referred to as JAK in the cricketing circles, Arunkumar has a plethora of experience on the coaching front, having guided the Karnataka state team to consecutive domestic trebles in 2013-14 and 2014-15.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Arunkumar spoke about the challenges that lay ahead of him and how he's preparing for the role of USA cricket's head coach.
"It came as an unexpected surprise. Someone told me that the position for head coach of the USA was open and asked me to apply. So I casually applied but I was mentally prepared. I thought it would be a good experience on an international platform. I love challenges and this was a good challenge, it came through and everything fell in place," Arunkumar said.
Arunkumar was also roped in as the batting coach of the Kings XI Punjab for IPL 2017 post which he served as the Hyderabad coach for the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy. The former first-class cricketer also served as the Puducherry head coach for a brief while during the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy season before he stepped down from the role.
In March this year, Arunkumar travelled to USA to attend a training camp in Houston, where 26 prospective players were called for trials. Just as the 45-year-old was understanding the players and their strengths, he had to rush back to India owing to coronavirus fears.
Arunkumar keen to work with USA cricket's multiple cultures and styles
However, Arunkumar is happy with the way cricket in USA is progressing and the steps being undertaken to promote the sport.
"Cricket in USA is at a budding stage. The cricketers are fantastic, and the officials have taken an initiative to improve facilities. They are building six new stadiums to improve the visibility of the sport in USA. People don't know much about cricket there and so its taken a backseat. To get more visibility, they are planning minor and major leagues to give opportunities to local guys who want to showcase their talent," he added.
Arunkumar also believes that the India-West Indies series in Florida, the Cricket All-Stars series that featured legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag among others, have gone a long way in attracting more fans to the sport.
And, while there is a lot of interest from multiple cities to partake in cricket tournaments, the former Karnataka coach reckons that the lack of match practice among USA cricketers is a slight issue at hand.
However, the veteran coach feels that the players will only get better with more match practice and is excited to work with the upcoming initiatives and the diversity of cricketing cultures in the USA team.
"Very excited to work with the diversity in the team. Even the IPL is diversified, the cricketers come from all over the world and we need to work on their game. It's a stimulating experience. I am doing background work about the various cultures apart from their cricketing styles," Arunkumar said.