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USA vice-captain Aaron Jones is hoping to fulfil a childhood dream and lead his country to a first ICC T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
To qualify for the 20-over showcase Down Under, Jones and the USA must first negotiate a tricky qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe and finish in the top two at the Qualifier B event that commences on Monday.
It won’t be an easy task, with USA taking on Jersey, Singapore and hosts Zimbabwe in the group stage of the eight-team tournament before a possible cut-throat semi-final clash against a different opponent from the opposing group.
But Jones is confident is his team’s ability, with USA having displayed their capabilities with impressive performances during two warm-up match victories against Jersey at the start of this month.
It’s enough to have Jones thinking about the possibility of reaching the pinnacle of T20 cricket at the World Cup in Australia later this year and what may actually lie ahead for USA given they will feature in the 2024 event as tournament hosts.
“If we could get to World Cup so you get to the highest level of cricket, to compete with the West Indies, Australia, India, all the teams that are playing full member cricket for sure, it would open a lot of doors,” Jones said.
“Not only for us but definitely the youngsters coming up in the USA. We know for sure that the USA is a big, big market in terms of fans that watch and support cricket.
“So we really, truly, want to get to the next level for them and for the youngsters coming up behind us as well.
“It would definitely be a dream come true, I mean, the World Cup is the highest stage.
“I don’t think you can get any bigger than a World Cup as a professional cricketer.
“So I definitely want to play in the next World Cup for sure, as long as we get through these qualifiers, it’s going to be a dream come true.”
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While Jones was born in New York, he moved to the Caribbean at the age of four and has many friends and former team-mates that play with Barbados domestically and West Indies at international level.
And the 27-year-old said that is giving him further incentive to perform well during the upcoming qualifier event as he knows he will have plenty of people he knows watching on.
“I also have some friends playing in the World Cup as well. Obviously, I’ve grown up in the Caribbean so if we played against the West Indies, then I would be playing against some of my friends so that would be a good experience as well,” he said.
“I played with some of them at school. The guys that are from Barbados, I played with them at youth levels and stuff like that.
“And some of them I played against them in first-class cricket back home in the Caribbean and List A cricket and stuff like that too.”
Jones is the second leading run-scorer for the USA in both T20Is and ODIs and knows the pressure will be on him to perform well in Zimbabwe.
“I would say that I like to put a bit of pressure on myself as well,” Jones admitted.
“I think that brings out the best in me, so me being the vice-captain, I want to be the leading batsman in the team.
“I always tend to tell myself that I need to do the job for the team. I just like to keep it as simple as possible.”
USA squad: Monank Patel (c), Aaron Jones, Ali Khan, Cameron Stevenson, Gajanand Singh, Jaskaran Malhotra, Marty Kain, Nisarg Patel, Rusty Theron, Saurabh Netravalkar, Steven Taylor, Sushant Modani, Yasir Mohammed, Vatsal Vaghela
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