After an extensive search, USA have finalised a two-year deal with J Arunkumar as head coach of their men’s national team. Arunkumar, 45, is a former Karnataka captain, with a strong body of work in the Indian domestic circuit.
He replaces interim coach James Pamment, who was appointed in October 2019 after USA Cricket chose not to renew contracts of their support staff in the likes of former India players Kiran More, Sunil Joshi and Pravin Amre along with David Saker, the former Australia bowling coach.
“I’m delighted to say we’ve reached an agreement that he will take up the role and be permanently based in USA when his working visa will be obtained,” USA Cricket CEO Ian Higgins said in a statement. “The Covid-19 crisis has presented some challenges around the scope of the role in the short and medium term, but we look forward to completing the arrangements and welcoming him more formally in due course.”
Arunkumar had initiated talks with USA Cricket in February by applying for the role of head coach through their website. He was offered the job within a week of the interview.
In March, he flew down to Texas to oversee a 10-day training camp of the national team, “just to get a feel of the system and set-up”, according to Arunkumar, before extensive lockdown restrictions were imposed around the world due to Covid-19. He also held discussions with the players – both senior and Under-19s – and officials to create a road map for the team once cricket resumes.
With travel bans still in place, Arunkumar has been interacting with the support staff and players through video calls.
“I’ve set up training modules for the players, so we meet once a day and discuss,” Arunkumar told ESPNcricinfo. “It’s important to be in touch with the players. The trainers have given them a workout chart, and we monitor them from time to time. I’m also getting to know the players at an individual level since I’ve just come into the set-up.”
Arunkumar scored 7208 first-class runs in a career spanning over 15 years, before becoming a coach in 2012. Success came early, with Karnataka clinching all three titles on the Indian domestic circuit – the Ranji Trophy, the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Irani Cup – for two seasons in a row: 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Arunkumar also has IPL coaching experience, having worked as assistant to Virender Sehwag at Kings XI Punjab. He has also had coaching stints with Indian domestic teams like Hyderabad and Puducherry, the latter ending with his stepping down from the role midway through the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy league phase due to “constant interference” from an official which, according to Arunkumar, created a “toxic team environment”.