Sushil Nadkarni, one of the most prolific batsmen in the history of US cricket, has announced his retirement aged 38. The former national team captain informed the USA Cricket Association by email on Tuesday of his decision and later said he made up his mind after USA did not progress beyond ICC WCL Division Three in Malaysia in October.
"The T20 World Cup Qualifiers are coming up next year but I feel like that'll be the time for youngsters to get an opportunity to step up," Nadkarni told ESPNcricinfo. "Division Four is two years from now. Just looking forward, I think it's time to step aside. I have to thank all the coaches I played under, all my teammates who supported me, other support staff and my family. Having started competitive cricket at 16, it's been 22 years of active cricket so it's been an emotional decision but I definitely want to thank my wife, my kids and my mom specifically who have supported me through my cricket career."
Born in Pune and developed through that Maharashtra system, Nadkarni at one time opened the batting for India U-19 against an Australia U-19 side featuring Brett Lee and had a brief first-class Ranji career before opting to migrate to Texas in 1999 aged 23 during the dot com boom to pursue a career in consulting. Two years passed before he even realized that cricket was played in the USA at which point he resumed his career at the amateur level before he eventually got a call up in 2006 to play for his adopted country. He scored a century on debut in a win over Cayman Islands during a tour of Canada.
It was an auspicious start for Nadkarni in a record-setting career. In 2008, he made the highest score in any format for USA by racking up 197 against Suriname in Florida. In 2010, he scored USA's fastest ton in 50-over cricket against Cayman Islands in Bermuda by getting to triple figures in 54 balls. He also set a number of records in domestic and league cricket, including a USACA National Tournament record 223 off 102 balls for the Central West Region in 2008. But Nadkarni says the achievement he's most proud of was a half-century in a famous win over Nepal in Kathmandu at WCL Division Five in 2010.
"That was one of the toughest challenges I've faced in a pressure situation," Nadkarni said. "There was a riot in the game plus the wicket was very difficult to bat on but in spite of that we chased the target to not only win but qualify for the next division. I was coming back from a ruptured Achilles and had played a couple games before that but hadn't done much. I was challenging myself to go out there and perform. It all boiled down to that one game for USA to try and get out of Division Five. There were 15,000 people there and the atmosphere was charged up. That would be my best moment for USA."
Nadkarni finishes second on the overall runs list for USA both in T20 and 50-over cricket with 439 runs at 24.39 and 1796 at 51.31 respectively. The next best average for USA's top ten scorers in 50-over cricket is former West Indies Test batsman and USA captain Faoud Bacchus, who averaged 38.00 during his time playing for USA. Nadkarni finished 489 runs behind all-time leader Steve Massiah despite having played in 36 fewer matches and no one has more centuries for USA in official matches than Nadkarni with four. He spent several years as vice-captain under Massiah but got to lead the national team in Massiah's absence during the 2012 World T20 Qualfier in the UAE.
Although he is retiring from international cricket, Nadkarni plans to remain involved at the local level and has spent the last few years helping a youth program get off the ground for his club and league in Houston. Nadkarni says development projects are something that other clubs around the country need to put a greater emphasis on so that USA does not fall behind other Associates in the world rankings.
"I just wish the best for USA because there's immense potential for cricket to develop in the USA but it needs to be better organized for the sport to grow. We need good grassroots structures in place in the future. The teams I played in had a lot of people that had played at a high level in our home countries before migrating here. USA might not always have the luxury of people with prior first-class experience. So they need to grow talent domestically and for that to happen there need to be good structures in place otherwise we won't be able to compete on the world stage in order to move forward."
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna