Jones to put friendship aside as USA take on West Indies in World Cup Qualifier
Aaron Jones will be putting friendships aside in his bid to inspire USA to a first-ever ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.
The 28-year-old was born in New York, but received his cricketing education in Barbados, having moved there with his family in his early years.
That meant growing up alongside players now representing West Indies, who lie in wait for USA’s ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier Group A opener on June 18.
Jones knows his side will be underdogs, but is relishing the opportunity to take on familiar faces.
“For me, it is just like playing against my friends,” he said.
“I grew up playing with the guys from Barbados – Shai Hope, Jason Holder, Kyle Mayers, Roston Chase – and I played against some of the other guys, like Nicholas Pooran and Rovman Powell.
“Barbados was a great place to play cricket and there was a lot of competition. The club game and First-Class game are both very competitive.
“We have played against the West Indian squad a lot – as a USA squad, we have been part of the List A competition in the Caribbean, so that has given us an idea of what to expect.
“I want to go hard and I want to win, for sure, but I will just have to treat it like another game. It will be a great occasion.”
Jones is now based back in his homeland, in North Carolina, and will play a key role in his side’s first appearance at an ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier since 2005.
He appears to be acclimatising well to conditions in Zimbabwe, top-scoring with 89 in a five-wicket defeat against Ireland in a warm-up match, and believes World Cup qualification would showcase the depth of cricketing interest which exists in the United States.
“A lot has changed in terms of facilities and investment in cricket in the US since we were last playing at this level,” he said.
“There are more grass wickets around, as opposed to astro turf and matting, and the amount of quality players we have to play against has gone up.
“USA is not seen as a cricketing nation in terms of the world knowing about us playing but within the country, there are a lot of Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and people from the Caribbean, who all come from cricketing backgrounds from their previous countries.
“There is definitely a lot of support – I would say only behind India and Bangladesh – and we just want to make everybody back home proud.”
USA will host the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 alongside West Indies but for now, the batter’s focus remains solely on helping his country create history in the coming weeks.
“In this team, I am the person to anchor the batting so I will take pride in doing that and getting my team to the World Cup,” he said.
“It would be great to grow the sport in our country and play in World Cups.
“Not only for ourselves – when we move on, we want to leave something behind for the youngsters to look up to. It is very important for us to have a legacy.”
How they qualified
USA finished top of the 2023 Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off table, winning four of their five games in Namibia to finish above UAE on net run rate and make their first Qualifier for 18 years.
World Cup record
USA are yet to feature in an ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup or T20 World Cup.
They made their ODI debut at the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy, losing out to star-studded Australia and New Zealand sides in the group stage.
One to watch
Steven Taylor was key to USA’s success in the Play-Off, striking consecutive half-centuries against Papua New Guinea and Jersey as they took charge of the group.
Taylor scored his maiden ODI century against Nepal in June 2022 and will be looking forward to facing the same opponents in Zimbabwe.
When are they playing?
USA open up against West Indies on June 18. They then take on Nepal (June 20), Netherlands (June 22) and Zimbabwe (June 26). (ICC)