Cricket and baseball have long had similarities. Long before baseball was America’s pastime, cricket was the game enjoyed by the former British colony. It wasn’t until after the American Civil War in 1865 that baseball began to overtake cricket in popularity. Although the United States is not competing in this summer’s Cricket World Cup, fans of the sport can still wager on their favourite teams as they play for the tournament’s trophy. Cricket followers can register here and bet on their favourite team to win the tournament.
While baseball surpasses cricket in terms of popularity in the US, Karan Patel learned to play the latter first. The Texas-born baseball player grew up playing cricket, a game foreign to many of the other boys who grew up in the baseball and American football-loving state. Patel’s Indian heritage allowed him to learn the ins and outs of cricket, and the game’s intricacies have helped him excel at playing baseball.
Who is Karan Patel?
In June of this year, Patel became the first person of Indian heritage to be drafted by a Major League Baseball team. The 22-year-old was drafted by the Chicago White Sox out of the University of Texas San Antonio in the seventh round. The pitcher has already made headlines due to his cricket playing and some Major League Baseball insiders believe more cricketers could excel at America’s pastime if given the chance.
Patel learned to play cricket from his father and quickly found bowling to be his preferred area on the pitch. As he got older and began to play baseball, bowling allowed him to make a somewhat natural move into pitching on the baseball diamond.
The pitcher’s fastball has been clocked at a lively 94 miles per hour. It is the movement he is able to get on his pitches that inspired the White Sox to draft him. Patel’s pitch movement and speed variations are down to his cricket playing as hitters were regularly fooled in the collegiate level.
In his final season at UTSA, Patel recorded a 2.84 ERA and struck out 104 batters in 92 innings. According to the university, he was the first pitcher in nearly three decades of baseball to post over 100 strikeouts.
A role model for future baseball
After a century of baseball being a North American sport, Major League Baseball has attempted to branch out with games in Australia and England in recent years. Games in both cricket loving countries saw positive attendances although converting people into fans is far more difficult than getting them to watch a one-off game.
Patel could be a role model for future Indian and boys of Indian heritage to begin playing baseball. In 2016, 27% of Major League Baseball players were from Latin America while the vast majority are from the United States. While Patel is from the US where he was born and raised, he will certainly carry the hopes of his ancestral home on his shoulders.
The cricketer turned baseball pitcher may have been drafted by the White Sox, but he is still a long way away from the big leagues. Patel must work his way up through the minor leagues before he earns the opportunity to pitch for the White Sox.
If his pitching is good enough, he could be the first player of Indian heritage to play Major League Baseball. Patel could also influence more baseball teams to scout cricket bowlers in the future.