Immigration Fueled America's Stunning Cricket Upset Over Pakistan

Cricket player during match
Saurabh Netravalkar bowls during a minor league cricket match in 2022. | Andy Mead/Isi Photos/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

An upset that reverberated around the cricket-watching world was made possible by America's most potent superpower: immigration.

In case you haven't heard by now, the United States upset Pakistan at the T20 Cricket World Cup this past Thursday. The history of the two countries' national cricket teams suggests that the win deserves a place in the annals of incredible American upsets on the international stage, alongside those pulled off by the 2018 Olympic curling team, the 1980 Olympic hockey team, and the 1950 World Cup soccer team. Pakistan finished second in this tournament when it was last held (in 2022), and it currently ranks 6th in the world. Meanwhile, the United States was making its first ever appearance in the competition—and qualified only because it was a co-host.

After beating Canada in the tournament's first match, the U.S. team is now in a good position to advance to the second round by finishing in one of the top two spots in its group—though a difficult match with India comes next, on June 12.

The New York Times called Thursday's win "a humiliation in Pakistan, where cricket is the most popular sport and part of the national identity"; it added that "many Americans were oblivious" to the result.

But we shouldn't be oblivious about why the result was possible. It's because of immigration. As The Indian Express points out, at least six players on the American team are of Indian descent, including several who are in the U.S. on work visas and who play on the national team essentially as a hobby.

That includes Saurabh Netravalkar, who bowled (the equivalent of pitching) the final over (inning) for the American team. He moved from Mumbia to San Francisco when he was a student. Now he's an engineer at Oracle. Monank Patel, who scored 50 runs in the game, moved to New Jersey from India in 2016 to start a restaurant. Nosthush Kenjige, who recorded three wickets (the equivalent of strikeouts), had been born in Alabama before moving to India and then returning to the U.S. to work as a biologist. Other players on the team were born in Canada, while some others (such as Kenjige) were native-born American children of Indian immigrants.

The rest of the Express article is worth your time to read, if only to appreciate the depth of the cross-cultural story behind the Americans' incredible upset. Saurabh, for example, had not even brought his cricket cleats to America when he moved here from India, believing that his cricket-playing days were behind him. Now he's the star and cricket is growing in U.S. popularity—particularly, and not surprisingly, in places with large numbers of South Asian immigrants.

There may not be a deep well of historical cricketing talent in the United States. But one of the greatest things about America is that if we don't have something, we can import it. And one of the lessons of the upset win over Pakistan is that greater immigration can have positive knock-on effects that go well beyond the initial reasons why someone might choose to move to the United States. After all, we're not handing out cricket visas. Saurabh didn't move to the United States to play the sport at all. He came for an opportunity to study, stayed because he got a job, and ended up helping author an all-time American sporting moment.

Immigration is America's superpower. Being one of the world's freest and most prosperous places means talented people from all over the world want to live and work here. When they do, it's not just their workplaces and immediate families that benefit. The country does too.

But what about all the immigrants who aren't world-class cricketers or scientists, some might ask. No problem! Can you cook or clean or code or care for someone? Can you do road work or construction? There are 8.1 million unfilled jobs in this country right now—and there will only be more economic opportunities as the country grows—so we should welcome all the help we can get. And when the kids of those immigrants grow up to be world-class scientists or athletes or entrepreneurs, America wins some more!

Some folks on social media seem grumpy about the victory because it was a bunch of immigrants and children of immigrants who made it happen. Those people should just say what they mean: that they'd prefer to see America be less successful—and not just at silly things like cricket matches, but at stuff that matters too. Be honest about it: You want America to lose more.

Personally, I prefer winning. And I don't care whether your parents were born in India or Indiana. Come here or stay here. Be an American. Go kick some ass.

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