MI and the United States, Where he hails from, New York spinner feels there is no substitute for a hard effort.
On that day at Van Cortlandt Park, left-arm spinner Nosthush Kenjige could have been Moses
In the summer of 2016, a 25-year-old medical equipment diagnostics technician walked up to an open tryout at a typically unkempt cricket outfield in the Bronx, New York, with an artificial jute matting pitch. He was hoping that someone would recognize him and offer him a chance to advance on the path to playing for the USA national team. That goal was merely a means of transitioning from one amateur pursuit to another, given that USACA was a year into their suspension and a year away from expulsion by the ICC, while the rest of the USA ecosystem was in limbo and the prospect of a professional career was a mirage in the American cricket landscape.
On that day at Van Cortlandt Park, left-arm spinner Nosthush Kenjige could have been Moses, a stranger in a foreign land. Cricket has been played at the Parade Ground between 244th and 252nd Streets, just off the Henry Hudson Parkway, for over 100 years, mostly anonymously. Even though he was born in Alabama and was a US citizen, Kenjige had spent practically his entire childhood in Karnataka and had only recently returned to the United States, first to Virginia before immediately traveling north to New York City and obtaining a job inspecting hospital MRI and X-Ray machines. Nobody knew who he was, let alone how to pronounce his name, save from the pals he rapidly acquired after joining Columbia Cricket Club. Seven years later, Kenjige takes the fresh ball for MI Fresh York in Grand Prairie Stadium. He beats Martin Guptill’s attempted sweep with his third delivery of the night and sends out an eager and knowing request for lbw before umpire Billy Taylor obliges with a finger raised. It’s recognition for Kenjige’s hard work in getting to this point, from amateur club cricketer in New York to centrally contracted player with the USA national team and now representing a professional T20 franchise linked to New York and the IPL.
“It’s been unreal,” Kenjige remarked after MI New York’s 105-run thrashing of LA Knight Riders, concluding with figures of 2 for 7 in three overs and taking two catches in the field. “I know we were all looking forward to it for the last one or two years, and to have such good teams and such good management teams running the teams, it just feels unreal.” From the standpoint of USA cricket, having such outstanding cricketers from all over the world playing right here in Dallas was all we hoped for. So there was nothing else I could have asked for.
“It means a lot to me. The locals bear a significant amount of blame as well. Local and other USA cricketers who are competing in this tournament because many children look up to us and watch us train. They see us going through the fitness programs and want to play for the country, and indeed, seeing us play with the game’s superstars encourages them even more. So it’s a great duty for us to always do the right thing, even when no one is looking. “Having such good cricketers from all over the world playing right here in Dallas is everything we wanted from the USA cricketing standpoint.” According to Kenjige, the MLC is still ‘unreal.’
That single paragraph encapsulates most of Kenjige’s cricket trip, physically and metaphorically. The 32-year-old exemplifies what it takes to make it in the American cricket scene. After being identified as a genuine prospect at the 2016 VCP open tryout in New York, Kenjige took a five-wicket haul at a USA intra-squad trial in Florida two months later, and the USA men’s selection panel, led at the time by former West Indies international Ricardo Powell, informed him that they were interested, but that he was currently ineligible to play for USA until he met some additional requirements.
Even though he was a US citizen, the ICC eligibility regulations 2016 stipulated that anyone who had not lived in the US for at least four years must commit to the local community, which may be accomplished by completing 100 days of coaching there. The ICC definition of 100 days equaled eight hours. So Kenjige would work a regular 9-5 pm shift examining x-ray machines at New York City hospitals, then drive to an indoor facility and conduct four hours of teaching every weeknight from 6 to 10 pm.
Even though he was a US citizen, the ICC eligibility regulations in 2016 stipulated that anyone who had not lived in the US for at least four years must commit to the local community, which may be accomplished by completing 100 days of coaching there. The ICC definition of 100 days equaled eight hours. So Kenjige would work a regular 9-5 pm shift examining x-ray machines at New York City hospitals, then drive to an indoor facility and conduct four hours of teaching every weeknight from 6 to 10 pm.
He’s been a staple in the USA setup ever since. He has subsequently relocated from New York to Dallas, leaving the world of medical equipment inspection behind in favor of a location with better weather and facilities for year-round cricket playing and training. He volunteers as a coach and mentor for the MLC-affiliated Mustangs Academy. But being allowed to perform on the T20 franchise stage and then sprinting with it elevates Kenjige to a new level.
“Nosh doing so well, it makes me so happy,” said Kenjige’s USA teammate, LA Knight Riders bowler Ali Khan. Ali, like Kenjige, began his career in the United States as a mobile phone salesperson while also playing for the United States as an unpaid amateur before making it big in the summer of 2018. “He’s been working hard, and a lot of other players are also working hard.” They’re simply waiting for the opportunity, which has arrived, and it’s up to them to seize it with both hands, and I’m sure the world will see a lot of talent emerge as a result.
“Because all of these players are here, just one inning or one spell can change your life.” Just as when I played in a local competition with [Dwayne] Bravo and did well, he picked me for more prominent leagues. That was the turning point in my life. So one chance, one good performance, can alter your life.”
Kenjige was the highest wicket-taker for the United States in the recent ICC World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, one of the few bright lights on a side that finished winless and last. Though he has been a member of every USA 50-over team since his first call-up in 2017, he has not played T20 cricket since September 2018 at the ICC Americas Subregional T20 Qualifier in North Carolina. He was the USA’s best wicket-taker in that event, with 12 wickets in six matches, before being strangely left out of the squad for the 2019 ICC Americas T20 Regional Final in Bermuda, and has yet to make his official T20I debut for the USA.
However, before the MLC Draft in March, MI New York scouted and evaluated him well enough to invest a fourth-round draft pick in him at the $40,000 slot level. Mahela Jayawardene singled out Kenjige for special mention, saying, “We honestly thought that Nosh would probably go in round two or three” and that “as soon as we had the opportunity, we grabbed him.” He’s one of the top left-arm spinners in the country. He is a two or three-phase bowler who is well-versed in these conditions. He bowls in the powerplay, which is huge for us since he is a left-arm spinner with a great personality. He enjoys a good challenge.”
Whether his spectacular debut for MI New York can get him back into the USA’s 2024 T20 World Cup roster plans remains to be seen. For now, Kenjige is focused on maintaining his success with MI New York and will let the chips fall where they may in terms of a probable recall in the USA’s T20 side. “It’s just about what I can do with the bat, ball, and field,” Kenjige explained. “Aside from that, it won’t go very far regarding words or sentences.” So I think it’s best to leave the performances on the field, and I know that at some point, I’ll have a chance, and all I have to do is be ready for it.”
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