J Arunkumar’s tenure as USA men’s head coach ends

J Arunkumar‘s tenure as USA men’s head coach has come to an end after just under three years following a decision by the board to not renew his contract. USA Cricket announced on Wednesday that Arunkumar’s time with them had concluded following the tour of Namibia in November, where they played the last of their 36 ODIs in ICC Cricket World Cup League Two.

Arunkumar, who was hired in early 2020, had to wait more than a year to actually preside over a match due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the last 16 months, his USA teams produced a series of historic highs on the field. But they also suffered a series of lows. The lack of consistency ultimately contributed to Arunkumar’s departure, something he acknowledged in his farewell statement.

“I am very thankful for my time as head coach of the USA Men’s National Team and will leave with plenty of fond memories from nearly three years in charge,” he said in a statement that the board issued. “I am pleased with the individual and collective progress of the team throughout my time but also disappointed that we couldn’t quite take our opportunities to qualify for a World Cup for the first time or perform more consistently in Cricket World Cup League 2.”

The biggest win under Arunkumar came during his first series on home soil when USA beat Ireland in December 2021. It was their first ever T20I win over a Full Member, as part of a 1-1 series draw in Florida.
However, USA’s failure to qualify for the T20 World Cup in 2022 left the administrators frustrated. Due to their cash-strapped position, it was unlikely that USA Cricket would fire Arunkumar for this, and be stuck having to pay him while also needing to hire a new coach, however, it became clear that his contract would not be renewed at the end of the year.
The team’s ODI results were a mixed bag under Arunkumar. USA achieved victories both home and away against Scotland in 2022. But they also had a disastrous tour of Papua New Guinea in September in which they went winless. It included a tie and a loss to the hosts (PNG’s second win out of 28 ODIs so far in the league). The top three teams in the seven-team league are guaranteed places in the 2023 ICC World Cup Qualifier, but USA’s poor string of results means they are likely to finish outside that cut-off. So now, they will have to go into a six-team tournament early next year, where they must finish in the top two to advance to the Qualifier to be played in Zimbabwe.

Arunkumar gained a reputation early on as a player’s coach who was more a man-manager than an outright tactician. His influence helped renew confidence in veteran players like Malhotra, who was one of Arunkumar’s first recalled players having been dropped from the USA squad in 2019 and Monank Patel, who took over as USA captain from Saurabh Netravalkar under Arunkumar in 2021.

Arunkumar’s tenure was also marked by handing out a significant number of debuts to younger, often homegrown talents. But the overwhelming majority have largely failed to develop successfully into becoming USA regulars under his watch. Abhishek Paradkar, Sanjay Krishnamurthi, Kyle Phillip, Yasir Mohammad, Ritwik Behera, Vatsal Vaghela, Sai Mukkamalla and Rahul Jariwala all received ODI or T20I debuts for USA since 2021. Yet all but Mukkamalla played a handful of games – the 18-year-old played eight ODIs – before being dropped as USA’s management soon defaulted back into the habit of preferring former overseas professionals.

Shayan Jahangir was the latest of those to make his debut in November, with more similar selections expected to occur in 2023. Ex-New Zealand international Corey Anderson is part of a wave of players that will become eligible for USA early next year under the ICC’s three-year residency criteria.

USA Cricket has already begun its recruitment process to find a replacement for Arunkumar.

“Jak’s time at the helm began just as the world was going through the huge difficulties of the Covid pandemic and it wasn’t easy throughout the initial stages of his time in the USA,” said Atul Rai, USA Cricket interim board chairman. “However, he always carried himself professionally and put the best interests of the team first and we would like to wish him well for the future as [he] moves on to new coaching opportunities.”


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