November 2, 2011

A Critical Period for US Cricket

The next month or two will tell us if US cricket is still ruled by a despot or if there is "spring" in the air.

Gladstone Dainty has managed to cling to power though seemingly illegal tactics -- from not announcing the Atlantic region's results in July to keeping Masood Chik as the Central East rep despite his being recalled by a 10-0 vote and suspending John Aaron without due process to interfering in the women's cricket selections to claiming to clean USACA by deciding which leagues can vote and by asking all regions to hold elections again as part of this "pristine" campaign.

Gladstone Dainty appears to be very bad news for US cricket.  He doesn't appear to care about the wellness of US cricket -- the precipitous decline of the US in the world scene in the last three years is well documented.   He seemingly eliminates (thankfully only virtually) his board opponents and replaces them with yes-men.  He is known to deliver selection and travel favors for a price or a vote.  He is in power because there are enough other shady administrators running leagues and regions in US cricket who become Dainty's yes-men for the usual reasons.

There are three declared nominees as of now for President of USACA in the December elections.  Dainty has not announced his intention but has spread rumors that he will run to some and that he will not run to others.  The first to announce his intention is the ex-First-VP, Nabeel Ahmed, who decided to quit the USACA board many months back instead of openly confronting Dainty and his evil ways.  Next to announce is a less-known but well-heeled businessman from Florida, Max Quereshi, known to throw money around as needed.  And the latest to announce his intention is Ram Vardarajan, once a threat to Dainty but now his compatriot in the controversially-appointed board of Cricket Holdings America, the place where serious money is expected to pour in from the outside world but not necessarily into US cricket at the grass-roots level.

To be honest, none of the candidates inspire confidence.  Any links to Dainty only adds to one's worry.  But US cricket suffers from a serious lack of honest cricket-first administrators and so it may well be a case of choosing the least of all evils.

One of the key determinants of this election is which leagues get to vote.  That will be decided by the so-called Dainty-sponsored compliance criteria which effectively appears to be a front for who will likely vote from Dainty or his friends.  The only recourse left to leagues that are summarily banned or suspended is legal action.  It may well come to that while real cricket in the US takes a back seat as it has for the last three years.

We will know how all this plays out between now and end of the year.

August 9, 2011

USA U19 at 2011 ICC Global Qualifiers in Ireland

August 9, 2011 

Nepal beat US convincingly in the last match for the two teams resulting in US failing to qualify for the "real deal" in 2012 in Northern Australia. Electing to bat after winning the toss, Nepal, despite some good pace bowling from Shahid and Salman which reduced them to 78 for 4, had two large partnerships -- one of patience and one of care-free hitting to take them to 264 in the allotted 50 overs.   In reply, a fiery half century by Taylor got the US to 78 for 4 in just 20 overs with Mirza and Joshi not bothering the scorers while captain Sewdial made 4 and Suri made 13.  However, unlike Nepal from the same position, the US could only get to 165 in 44 overs with Salman and Shayan contributing in delaying defeat.

US finished seventh in the points table ahead of Canada, Kenya and Vanautu, all of whom will stay home when the 2012 U19 World Cup gets into full swing next summer.  Clearly, there are a lot of things that conspired to prevent the US to make it to the world stage but what was glaring through the tournament was their shoddy fielding and catching and, more starkly, their lack of consistent batting prowess, save Taylor who accumulated close to 450 runs in 9 matches.  Without him, the seventh place finish would not even have been possible for the US.

August 7, 2011

US laid an egg against Canada who played inspired cricket.  Man of the match Aulakh ripped through the US lineup who were shown wanting in technique as the pitch did offer early assistance.  Electing to bat first, the US could only muster 101 runs and couldn't even bat 50 overs.  The Canadians got the runs with the loss of five wickets with only Shahid, who shockingly bowled one change, showing any fire in his bowling.

This loss makes US's last match versus Nepal all important.  A win will all but guarantee US passage to the CWC while a loss, particularly a huge loss, will likely mean an exit from CWC.   A close loss will bring NR-based tie-breaking scenarios into play which will reveal themselves at the end of Tuesday when the tournament concludes.

August 5, 2011

US made short work of Vanautu in a rain-affected match.  Vanautu batting first got to 132 in 32 overs for the loss of eight wickets.  The US reached 120 for 2 in 21 overs before rain ended play and US were declared winners based on D-L method.  Given the weak Vanautu bowling attack, it was quite odd that a circumspect Taylor saw the US through.

US is now in fourth place with a 4-3 record.  They play their arch rivals Canada next.  A win will guarantee qualification while a loss will guarantee all kinds of complications.

August 4, 2011

US easily defeated Kenya to climb to 3-3 in the standings.  Put into bat first, the US got to 239 for 9 in 50 overs thanks to a well-constructed 68 from captain Sewdial and a steady 41 from Joshi who were involved in a crucial 106-run partnership for the third wicket.  The rest of the batting never really got untracked except for a breezy 28 by Suri towards the end of the innings.  In reply, Kenya could only muster 108 in 34 overs with Ahmad getting three wickets with Shahid, Abdulghani and Suri chipping in with 2 wickets each.  Many positives from this important win -- batting through 50 overs and bowling efficiently.  

US climbed to fifth in the standings.  They are now tied with Namibia, Canada and PNG with their 3-3 record.   US play 0-6 Vanuatu Saturday while Canada faces PNG and Namibia play Scotland.

August 3, 2011

US's deficiencies in batting showed up as they lost to Scotland in their fifth match, this one in Northern Ireland.  US could only muster 124 in 35 overs with many batters getting out to poor shots.  Only three batsmen got into double figures -- Taylor (28), Sewdial (31) and Joshi (23) -- and none of them went to play through the innings.  While Mirza and Persaud appeared wanting in terms of technique in the top order, the middle order pretty much threw their wickets to indiscreet shots, something for which they cannot have any excuses.  The Scottish batsmen despite losing two early wickets to Mittal Patel stuck to proper cricket and won by eight wickets.

The next match on Friday is a big one as it is against another 2-3 team with a better NRR - Kenya.  Hopefully, the US team can regroup and play sensible cricket -- bat 50 overs, bowl tightly and field like every run matters.  If they can beat Kenya and Vanuatu on successive days, they will have a decent shot at qualifying going into the final two matches.

August 1, 2011

The US got past Afghanistan in a rain-affected match. They are now very much in the thick of things with 4 points, with five matches to go of.  Starring for the US was pacer and man-of-the-match Mittal Patel with six wickets including an inning-ending hat-trick with Shahid chipping in with two wickets from eight probing overs.  Stephen Taylor again got the US off to a flier with a brisk 49.  Fellow opener Mirza made a quiet 34 while Jodhbir and Salman saw the US through with 3 balls to spare with D/L method in effect and three wickets in hand.  Both Sewdial (28) and Joshi (10) of the middle order did not do justice yet again to their batting talent and got out just when they looked set while the other middle order batsman Persaud failed to open his score.  This continues to be an area of some concern for the US team.

All in all, a big win for the US team as they head to Northern Ireland for the rest of the competition.  They need to win at least two and possibly three of the remaining five matches, especially against Vanatu who are in the cellar, Canada who likely are true equals and Kenya who are a bit of an unknown, to finish in the top six.  Scotland and Nepal wins would be an added bonus as one senses they are better on paper based on performances to date.

July 31, 2011

The US defeated Namibia by 46 runs to claim its first victory.  That along with its positive NRR means they are seventh in the standings with 6 more matches to go.  US batted after winning the toss and thanks to a blistering century by the in-form Steven Taylor were at 151 in 20 overs when Taylor departed.  Thanks to a 40 by Persaud and an unbeaten 55 by Pranay Suri, they made it to 312 in 50 overs although more was possible on the small venue and fast outfield.  Again, Sewdial, Joshi and Mirza did not do much to get back into the sort of form from where the US can really dominate proceedings.  The US bowlers, but for Suri and Shahid, went for runs, early and often.  Patel and Gurpreet Sandhu were particularly guilty of some loose bowling.  However, Ahmad and Patel did come back at the end to cut off the Namibia rally at 266 after some nervous periods.  Fielding continued to be substandard but there were one or two brilliant catches as well.

It is clear that a change in batting order is needed.  Mirza is just not the opener that we thought he was from his ICC Americas performances and Joshi is going through quite a lean patch.  Sewdial has to start batting like he once was capable of and hopefully still has it in him.  Jodhbir has been inconsistent but that is the nature of his batting -- hit or miss -- but may be useful in the early overs when power play is on.  As far as bowling is concerned, it makes no sense to not open with Shahid.  Not sure what the thinking is with that.  It doesn't make any sense to not play Shayan ahead of Gurpreet.  Another mystifying selection choice.  As has been said before in this blog, Taylor should not be keeping given the batting workload expected of him as an opener, game in and game out.   The selectors in their infinite wisdom did not have a backup keeper in the 14.  Either Taylor is going to tire as the tournament progresses or worse get injured.  Either way, that will only hurt the team's chances.

Next match is against Afghanistan who play aggressive cricket but can be beaten with smart cricket on US's part.  Lets hope the US boys do what it takes as a win against Afghanistan will be a huge boost going to Northern Ireland.

July 29, 2011

The US won the toss and surprisingly put PNG (Papua New Guinea) into bat, possibly because of the rain that reduced the match to 43 overs.  PNG made hay of things and got to an imposing total of 262 for 9 with their top three batters accounting for 2/3 of those runs.  US bowling was expensive with only Jodhbir going for just 25 in 8 overs.  Mittal Patel did get four wickets in the slog overs but conceded 56 runs.

US started their response weakly with Mirza and Persaud out cheaply.  Captain Sewdial and Joshi didn't help either getting out for low scores.  Taylor was all ablaze and almost single handedly kept US in the match.  There was a stirring last wicket partnership by Hammad Shahid and Mittal Patel which came within 6 runs of the total but sadly it was not to be.

The "feet" aspect of US cricket continues to be poor -- too many fielding lapses and too many run-outs/near run outs which is unlikely to improve.  Given that, the US top batting order has to fire which except for Taylor has been dormant.  One suggestion would be to replace Mirza with Jodhbir at the opening slot -- he is an attacking opener (opens for NWR) who can take the game away from the opposition on his day.

For what it is worth, the US NRR is the best among the bottom five but that is not much of a consolation unless they have some points as only three teams (including the US) are at 0 points.  The US need a win against Namibia (who are 2-0) on Sunday to keep up their spirits and chances.

July 28, 2011

The U19 campaign started with a very close match with hosts Ireland.  After being put into bat, the US team got to 177/9 in 50 thanks to rearguard action by the lower middle order after being 82/5 midway.  The Irish team overhauled the score in the second last ball of the allotted 50 overs with just one wicket to spare.

The US went with three spinners and two seamers with Jodhbir Singh bowling pace as an all-rounder.  Surprisingly, US U19 spearhead, Hammad Shahid was warming the bench instead of bowling on a seam-friendly track.  Hope this was because he was unfit.  Despite Hammad's omission,  the US bowling was quite effective but their poor catching and sloppy fielding did not help at all.  The US batting top order but for Taylor and Persaud failed miserably and that also had a telling effect on the outcome of the match.  Next up is Papua New Guinea who lost their first match to Namibia.

July 28, 2011

"Making USACA Pristine"

"Better late than never" as the saying goes means "better just before the elections" in USACA-speak.  This email started the "making USACA pristine" campaign.

Dear USACA Members

USACA is moving very meticulously towards building a pristine organization, a world class sporting body and every member of USACA is requested to fully cooperate in this endeavor. If you know of any missing leagues please forward this email to them. 
Having said that, I would like to mention the following:

1.      It is imperative that all leagues registered with USACA must submit the survey spreadsheet (previously sent) by the extended deadline of August 2nd.
2. All worksheets must be filled within the spreadsheet. Leagues who have filled only one or two worksheets, needs to resubmit the complete spreadsheet.

3.      There is no further extension to complete the survey spreadsheet.
4.      All regional elections that have already occurred will be null and void.

5.      Regional elections will follow once the spreadsheets are collected from the leagues based on the information collected and compliance recorded.

6.      Regional elections will be monitored and supervised by USACA board.
Thank you for your cooperation.
And when folks (rightly) objected to Mr. Dainty Gladstone's right-hand man/enforcer being the chief compliance officer, what follows was sent out, post haste.
Dear USA Cricket Members:
It is imperative that I mention the USACA Compliance Officer, Mr. Shelton Glasgow is a brave man to have subjected himself and family to such warrant less insults and threats.   Mr.Glasgow’s work has produced a body of evidence which is clearly demonstrating that the USACA honor system of compliance has been abused by several leagues and officials.
The volume or work needed to complete this necessary task is now beyond USACA’s internal management.   It is therefore necessary that we turn this job over to a capable third party.
Within the next few days an independent accounting or law firm will be engaged with the expectation that  all USACA leagues and officials will cooperate to the fullest including a stay of all elections until this process is completed.  
I am aware that some regions have held elections, leagues within these regions will also be required to pass this compliance test..
Gladstone Dainty
President USACA
Lets hope (actually pray) that the "third party" law/accounting firm that is being retained is not run by Mr Dainty's close Demerara friends.
Some would say Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Karzai can learn a thing or two of how to make an awful mess, pristine, from Mr. Dainty.  Time will tell, not that we have enough of it as far as orderly US cricket goes.

July 18, 2011

NWR wins the 2011 National U15 Tournament (Again)

NWR is making a strong claim to be called the cradle of US youth cricket.  The NWR U15 team finished with a perfect 5-0 record beating the New York Region's U15 in a closely contested final.  In the past year, the U17 team from CCA (which is in the NWR) easily won the National Invitational and the NWR U19 is arguably the best regional side having beaten all the teams in the Western Conference Tournament and then beating SER and SWR in the curtailed National U19 Tournament in December 2010.   In this context, it is remarkable that USACA continues to not recognize the strength of this region by routinely ignoring its proven talent.  This needs to change for the sake of US youth cricket for the bias is clear as daylight.

July 14, 2011

Rocky Road for the US to the 2011 U19 ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Ireland

July 14, 2011

For the first time, USA U19s  batted first after winning the toss and in what can be called in improvement over the first two matches, they built their total to 133 in the fourth and final match against the West Indies U19 team. There were a couple of partnerships for the US team but many batsmen did perish of their own doing. There was a paucity of singles and twos and a penchant to go for big shots. The West Indians made very quick work of the total as if they had an afternoon appointment.  Opener John Campbell slashed, slammed and pulled his way to a 100 of just 69 balls against insipid bowling by the US, particularly and worryingly by the pacers.  Despite not being in the twelve for the match, the mystery keeper, Chris van Tull, played in the match while Steven Taylor, the regular keeper, tried some spin.   Of course, US administration has said nothing of all this -- van Tull is not even in the probables but may well find his way into the 14 ahead of more deserving players.  One thing we can say about US cricket -- we start young -- with the politics, that is.

The US boys have two weeks to get ready for Ireland.  First and foremost, they need to really improve their catching and fielding. They need to bowl consistent lines and length instead of going for pace or trying random variations as spinners. They need to take all the singles and twos on offer and wait for loose deliveries to dispose for boundaries instead of taking unnecessary chances or get bogged down.  If they do the basic things right, they will perform creditably in Ireland.

July 12, 2011

A better performance by the US team in its third match although the West Indian team's batting improved as well.  The net-net was a 220 run victory for the West Indian U19 who were put into bat and had two centurions in Campbell and Mayers.  US's Prashanth Nair who took 5 wickets for 57 from 9 overs was the standout bowler.   The US batting which began circumspectly (for a change) got to its highest total in this series of 101 for 5 in the allotted 42 overs (D-L reduction due to rain).  Cameron Mirza played a steady innings of 34 with the first wicket partnership of 29 with Taylor being the largest of the innings.  Clearly, the US is out of its depth against the West Indian side but they can take heart from their improved performance in all three aspects of the match, thanks to Coach Robin Singh in no small measure.

The conduct of the US cricket administration got worse, if that can be believed.  They introduced a hitherto-unknown keeper -- not in the 14, not even in the reserves and never has been to trials.   They also brought in Kalim Ahmed, who is a reserve, into the match after saying just yesterday that there will not be any changes to the squad.  So much for that.  The West Indian team management did appear to question how non-squad members can be randomly inserted onto the field of play but they chose not to sustain a protest.  Perhaps, they have now realized that US cricket is devoid of anything resembling due process and proper etiquette.

What is very apparent is that USACA does not seem to bother with how others (in and out of the US) perceive them as long as they get to do what they want.  There is no one to hold them accountable -- they know that, we know that.   If any of you feel aggrieved (and many do), I suggest you email to with your feedback on the state of US cricket.   It cannot hurt when ICC sees multitude of emails from US rank-and-file cricket enthusiasts.

July 11, 2011

Never an off day when USACA politics is in full swing!  Two extraordinary decisions (both from the very top) -- one was to replace an already selected US T20 player (Nauman Mustafa from NWR) with another who should have been selected in the first place (Sushil Nadkarni of CWR) and the second was to invite a seemingly random assortment of U19 players (mostly from Washington DC and South Florida) to the "training camp" alongside the U19s.   Manaf Mohammed, USACA's operations chief ominously added "the squad remains the same for now." 

One has to feel terrible for Nauman who did nothing wrong and because he belonged to an anti-Dainty region, he was seen as expendable.  What is worse is that such actions are par for the course in the US -- a few will bark but there is never any bite.

As for the additional invitees for the U19 camp, it makes no sense given that only one of them appears to be from the reserves.  It almost has to be a quid pro quo between USACA and a region or two, the details of which we can only speculate.  It would not be surprising if one or two of the current "expendable" players in the squad are excused and replaced with the "trainees."

What is surprising is why someone like Coach Robin Singh would put up with such zaniness in the midst of a serious training camp that he has promised.  How he reacts and what he does will tell us a lot about his character.

July 10, 2011

Things got from quite bad to much worse in the second match as the West Indians piled up 339 runs in the allotted 50 overs with opener John Campbell scoring a seven-life unbeaten century.  The US could only manage 71 runs in return with extras top scoring and no batsman even making into double figures.  It does appear that this team is disoriented technically, mentally and physically.   Coach Robin Singh, who joined the team today, did seem to take this performance in stride in his post-match comments but he has quite a few holes to plug and plug quickly and effectively.  The next match is scheduled for Tuesday and a day's gap can only come as a welcome one for the US team and its coach as they scramble to look like a cricket team that can qualify for the 2012 edition of the U19 Cricket World Cup.   As of now, they look like pretenders.  

July 9, 2011

The West Indies U19 overwhelmed the US U19 in the first match winning by a whopping 215 runs. Areas of real concern from this match for the US are the poor catching and fielding and the very brittle batting display.  Bowling was quite good by the front-line bowlers despite lack of catching support.   While one does not expect the US U19 to consistently match up well against a member country's U19 side, there is room for lots of improvement in the next three matches.
July 8, 2011

Rain showers forecast for the entire week in Florida where the West Indies U19 play the US U19.  Should anyone be surprised by this -- after all, this is the start of the hurricane season in that part of the world.   But don't tell that to the organizers at USACA of such events.   They seem to have a knack of picking the wrong place to have tournaments of late.  Lets hope enough matches get played to completion.

Per Dreamcricket's Peter Della Penna, the weather at the stadium is very good but despite that the match got postponed (last night) to Saturday.  Some disturbing points mentioned in Peter's article -- Greg Sewdial appears unfit (he is recovering from serious injuries) and he is the captain and main middle order batsman;  Gurpreet Sandhu has not arrived and may not due to inability to enter the US on a valid visa;  Masood Chik (Ex-CER-USACA-Rep) still involved with the team;  Amarnath Persaud being trained to be a backup keeper as there are no real keepers except for Stephen Taylor.

July 6, 2011

Time for the US National Cricket Teams to Play and Play Well

July 6, 2011

The selections for the US T20 senior side and U19 side are done and dusted.   They have been critiqued here and elsewhere.  There have been some shocking exclusions and a few strange inclusions, with a lot of speculations on the reasons behind these.  But there are also many deserving players who have been selected, presumably on merit but one can never tell as little is known on how selections work and how selectors think.

Much is at stake as the US senior and junior sides get ready to participate in international tournaments in July and August.   For the senior side, the goal is to finish in the top two to qualify for further T20 competition leading to the T20 CWC in 2012.  For the U19 side, the goal is to finish in the top six of the ten teams that will compete so that they can qualify for the U19 CWC also in 2012.  Neither of these goals should be considered gimmes.

In a few weeks, we will get a chance to reflect and analyze how these teams did and, in turn, how the coaches and selectors did.   Until then, lets enjoy watching, hearing and reading about our national teams' performances and lets hope that their campaigns are successful.

June 28, 2011

USA U19 Team for the ICC WC Global Qualifiers in Ireland

July 5, 2011

Not unsurprisingly, the pride of NY youth cricket, Greg Sewdial, has returned to claim his crown, the captaincy of the US U19 team.  Move over Abhijit Joshi -- you only won 5 out of 5 matches as captain in the ICC Americas Tournament!  There is now the added risk that Joshi may not make it to the playing XI if random acts of blindness continue, courtesy Sew and his wing men.  

June 28, 2011

The New York region got three new players into the US 14 -- Greg Sewdial, Amarnauth Persaud, and Prashanth Nair made it in at the expense of Fahad Babar of CER (who withdrew), Kalim Ahmed and Waleed Karimullah of the Atlantic region.   Greg Sewdial who did play in the 2010 U19 World Cup is coming back from serious injuries and his fitness levels have been a concern as well as his lack of match practice.  Amarnauth Persaud is a bowling all-rounder and Prashanth Nair is a left arm spinner, both of whom did not shine in the Eastern Conference U19 matches in 2010.  It does appear that the Kalim Ahmed has been dropped for no specific reason from the 14 just as his Atlantic region mate Waleed Karimullah didn't make the cut for the 18 even though he was never given a match. 

The 14 sports multiple openers in Stephen Taylor, Cameron Mirza, Jodhbir Singh, Trevor Singh, Abhijit Joshi and Salman Ahmad, some of whom will surely be shifted to the middle order.  Greg Sewdial and Pranay Suri are the only two true middle order batsmen.  Pacers are Hamad Shahid, Salman Ahmad, Mittal Patel, and Amarnauth Persaud.  Shayan Abdulgyani and Prashanth Nair are left arm off-spinners while Gurpreet Sandhu is a leg spinner.  The only off-spinner (if they choose to use him as one) is Pranay Suri.  There is no spare wicket keeper in the 14.   
The matches against the West Indian U19 team starting in a couple of weeks will be a good test of how this team can stand up to quality opposition.  

June 17, 2011

Surprise, surprise! The wise men of US Cricket, the selectors, Sew Shivnarine, Abrar Ahmed, and Sunny Khan decided on the following eighteen for the U19.   (Hopefully, no one else participated as rumored.)

Shayan Abdul Ghani, Salman Ahmad. Kalim Ahmed, Sohaib Choudhry, Abhijit Joshi, Cameron Mirza, Prashant Nair, Prumjot Panesar, Mital Patel, Amarnauth Persaud, Gurpreet Sandhu, Gregory Raj Sewdial, Hammad Shahid, Trevor Singh, Jodhbir Singh, Jasdeep Singh, Pranay Suri and Steven Taylor. 

So what we have is the same 14 as was selected for the ICC Americas tournament with Greg Sewdial coming in for Babar (who apparently made himself unavailable) and three bowlers and a keeper -- Sohaib Choudhry, Amarnauth Persaud, Jasdeep Singh (all bowlers) and Prumjot Panesar (who kept for NWR but is a lower-middle order batsman).

Several technically-strong batsmen (notably Akash Jagannathan and Krish Goel) in the group of 20 (and who happened to be in the reserves for the ICC Americas Tournament) despite their commendable performances in the U19 tournaments and camps were kept out for reasons only known to the selectors.  This despite the  well-established need for more batting in the team.   One explanation that seems to make more and more sense is that Sew (the dominant selector as the other two are not as confident of their cricketing knowledge, I am told) is not keen on any batsman who is a grafter/anchor/accumulator.  He likes the ones who can send the ball into orbit and if you look at the batsmen, there are none who will qualify as grafters/anchors/accumulators.

If you want to go by regional counts -- NER - 0, NY - 5, Atlantic - 4, SER- 1, CER - 2,  CWR - 0, SWR - 3,  NWR - 3.   What stands out is that selector Shivnarine's region (NY) has five players who I would expect to make it into the 14.

 As for competition at the qualifiers, Afghanistan and Nepal are expected to be quite strong along with Ireland and Scotland who will be experiencing home conditions for the most part.   Canada will be stronger than the team at ICC Americas given that three of the U19s who were with the senior squad at the CWC in South Asia will be back.  Not much is known about the remaining teams but Hong Kong has a good U19 setup and they can be expected to be competitive.  

Realistically, USA's chances of finishing in the top six to qualify for 2012 U19 World Cup in Australia is not that great.  It almost entirely depends on the one or two technically-strong batsmen that they have striking form and performing at a high level assuming their bowling clicks and fielding is upto snuff.   

June 15, 2011

Approximately 20 U19 players from different parts of the country made their way to New York to go through a new set of USACA-sponsored trials to "fine tune" the U19 fourteen that finished first in the ICC Americas U19 event in Florida back in February 2011.   The west coasters were made to take a red eye to get in early Saturday to some wet weather but the weather got better on Sunday so some assessment was possible although clearly not ideal.

From the February ICC Americas tournament, it has been a consensus view among keen observers of youth cricket around the country that what the team lacks is batting depth as it moves to stiffer competition of the ICC Global Qualifiers.  What the team can really use is some top/middle-order batting depth in exchange for the one or two extra bowlers they have.  It can also use a reserve keeper-batsman given that the only keeper the team has, regularly opens the batting to try to give them a flying start.

The eighteen will be announced this week from which the fourteen will be announced by the end of June, apparently in consultation with coach Robin Singh who disappointingly was not at the trials.  Lets hope that the selectors balance the side, keeping in mind the challenging batting conditions and much better competition they can fully expect to face in Ireland.

June 26, 2011

NWR's CCA successfully hosts yet another national youth cricket tournament

It is really a study in contrasts.  While USACA bumbles around with its tournaments, the latest being the T20 nationals held in New Jersey, the young upstarts in the form of California Cricket Academy based in Cupertino, California have pulled off yet another successful youth tournament, this time an Under-17 with representation from the CER and the NY-NJ region as well as two teams from CCA itself.  What stands out is the extent of volunteerism and the ability for these volunteers to work together and run the even as smoothly as one can expect.  There is much to be admired and to learn from for the rest of us both in the West Coast and US in general.

These tournaments have been conducted from 2006 and for the first few years they included U11, U13, and U15 while this year was limited to U17.  CCA has finished at the top each year not just because of their home field advantage but because they appear to benefit from the solid young cricketers groomed under the tutelage of coaches such as Ajit Tendulkar (Mumbai) and Amit Buch (Ahmedabad) over the years.   CCA has even sent a few teams overseas to Canada, India and England  and surely such experience can only be quite helpful to youth player development.  

The finals of this year's edition was between the unbeaten CCA Royals and the Chicago-Michigan combined team which even had a player or two from Florida.  The CCA Royals breezed to an easy 10 wicket victory after dismissing the Chicago-Michigan team for 122 runs.  This is the fourth in five years that the U15/U17 trophy has been won by CCA.   Vikram Valluri was adjudged the Tournament MVP and Best Batsman while Pranav Pradhan was adjudged Best Bowler and Neil Tagare was adjudged Best Fielder.  It is indeed surprising that the national youth teams do not have more of CCA's abundant talent given their continued success and diverse experience.   To the extent there is bias in USACA against one group or region or the other (and evidence to support this is sadly overwhelming), it is time to put that aside and get the best players playing for the nation.  

Those interested in the details of this year and past years national tournaments can peruse the CCA website devoted to them at

June 18, 2011

USACA's 2011 T20 tournament: A muddling, puddling event

It was sunny and warm in Plano, Texas the weekend of June 18/19 which was supposed to be the site of USACA's first T20 tournament.  Thanks to extraordinary changes effected by Munaf Mohammed, the USACA operations czar, the tournament was moved abruptly to New York.   Reasons for this sudden venue change were never clearly explained but clarity has never been the strong suit of the always-secretive USACA of the last decade.  One vacuous explanation was that hotel rates were too high ($90/night with a hot Texas breakfast included) but at least they didn't need a bullet-proof cashier window like the ones in East Orange, NJ where our finest cricketers are lodging.

The first day of the tournament (on Friday) was washed out and the picture of a puddle-ridden field with grass high enough to hide a cricket ball framed the bungling that USACA routinely seems to get away with.

There was some action on Saturday but only after the brave among the cricketers proceeded to remove pieces of glass (that once cradled cheap beer)  all over the alternate not-so-puddled cricket field.  Think about sliding to stop a boundary and instead cutting yourself silly.   It was confusing as well to follow these matches from afar as none of the changes to the tournament format were announced by USACA on their website.  But for Dreamcricket's live coverage, it would have impossible to know who was playing who, when and where even if you lived in NJ.

Four ~15-over "group" matches were played Saturday (CER bt NWR, NYR bt SER, SWR bt CWR, NWR bt SWR) while four more "group" matches were played on Sunday (NER bt SER, ATL bt NYR, CWR bt CER, ATL bt NER).   The teams with the best records in the Western and Eastern conferences played the final (a 12 over per side affair) and the Atlantic region came away winners.

The selectors (yes, all of them) watched the rain, the glass picking, and the cricket to soon select a team that will play first against its Americas peers in Florida in July.  Assuming the US do well, they will go to the UAE to play against other wannabes to gain the right to be on the field at the World Cup T20 tournament. 

April 23, 2011

USACA's NWR and SWR 2011 Elections Conclude

As of the end of May 2011, the regional reps of NWR and SWR at USACA have been elected.  SWR elected Mark Sood unanimously after Nina Ahmed withdrew for undisclosed reasons.  NWR already had a couple of nominees in addition to Ram Vardarajaan who also suddenly withdrew.  A third nominee, Ajay Athawale, who was unusually added at the last moment and well past the original deadline, presumably with USACA's consent, ended up getting elected.  Mark Sood for those familiar with SoCal cricket has long been associated in various official capacities with the Southern California Cricket Association league, easily the largest league in the region.  Ajay Athawale, who is lesser known in NoCal cricketing circles, is the President of the California Cricket Academy which focuses exclusively on youth cricket in the region.

Interestingly, Ram Vardarajan and Nina Ahmed's husband, Asif Ahmed, became part of the newly formed Cricket Holdings America, the for-profit organization for US cricket.  USACA President Gladstone Dainty and Treasurer John Thickett are the other members of CHA.  

As of May 3, 2011, the news is that while the new regional administrations for NWR and SWR have been announced, the leading SWR and NWR representative nominees to USACA have both withdrawn for undisclosed reasons.   The remaining NWR's representative nominee is from a league (CCL) that was, at one point earlier this year, declared ineligible by USACA itself only to be subsequently declared eligible under odd circumstances. 

As of May 2, 2011, the results have apparently been ratified by the USACA BoD and will be announced anytime now.  

As of April 27, 2011, results of the NWR and SWR elections have still not been announced by USACA even though the elections were supposedly completed by April 19th.  Perhaps it takes a while to count the votes from the handful of leagues in each region!   Or perhaps the results are such that USACA is in no hurry to announce them.  Who knows!

The elections were not without drama.  CCL from NWR and GLACA from SWR were declared as ineligible as they had not met the criteria for a voting league per USACA's John Aaron.  This was followed by an online exchange between Mr. Aaron and the CCL and NWR leadership on a New York cricketing website.  Eventually and mysteriously, the ban was lifted and these leagues were allowed to vote.  There were also irregularities in the nomination process with at least one candidate being denied a nomination despite claiming to meet all requirements. 

National elections are set for October although ex-first VP, Nabeel Ahmed, is on record claiming that this is too late per the constitution and he appears to have a point.   It will be not be a quiet summer, especially off the field, with lots of maneuvering and alignment expected with assorted "quid pro quos" which will manifest in the next three years depending on who gets elected. 

The best thing that US cricket can use at this stage is an independent election service to certify that the voting leagues are indeed eligible per the constitution and then conduct the elections to ensure that there are no irregularities.  The fees they may charge would be well worth the sense of fairness we can get in return.  When was the last time we felt elections relating to USACA were "fair?"

February 17, 2011

USA U19 Performance Review

It is hard to argue with success.  It is hard to argue with winning.  USA U19 went 5-0 and except for the Canada match, they overwhelmed the others sides.  Except for Canada, the other sides as it turned out were not in the same league as USA.  Should be noted that Canada were without the services of three of the U19s who are in India with the seniors and getting all the experience of playing the very best in the world.  They will be stronger when USA sees them again in Ireland in the global qualifiers.   None of this should take away from the US performance which we should all be proud of especially the young men who were part of the side.   But it would be a mistake to get carried away and over-estimate our side and under-estimate the opposition in the process, as we move forward in the qualifying phase towards the 2012 U19 World Cup.

So lets look at the US squad's performance objectively, at least as objectively as we can.

  • Their fast bowling consisting of Salman, Hamad and Mital Patel was quite successful but I only see Hamad as having the ability and experience to be a true strike bowler.  He has ability to raise his game as the opposition gets better.  It is often the case that really good outswinging bowlers like Hamad will often miss the edge of lesser batsmen.  Salman is improving rapidly but I dont see him at the same level as yet as Hamad.  Mital Patel bowled surprisingly well but he appears to be a confidence bowler -- if his loose deliveries are dispatched with ease, he may struggle.  
  • Their slow bowling is mediocre.  Might sound harsh but the reality is that Shayan and Gurpreet are not the sort of bowlers who will trouble good batsmen.  While Shayan may be effective from an economy rate standpoint, Gurpreet bowls far too many loose deliveries every over for a spinner.  Neither of them stood out in the Western Conference U19 matches.  In fact, Viraj Sehgal of SWR was a more effective slow bowler who may not have caught the fancy of the selectors in the December trials.  The fact that Pranay Suri who has been dominant slow bowler in U19 matches out West has been mostly ignored as a bowler is a shocker to those who have seen him in action.   He needs to be shown faith so that he can bowl with confidence and deliver the goods.
  • Their top-order batting consisting of Taylor, Mirza and Joshi is one where it will click when it is their day but it won't be their day when the opposition bowls enough wicket-taking deliveries.  Taylor is flamboyant but he is also reckless.  Mirza appears solid but I am not convinced that he can be patient when the going gets tough.  Joshi is a talented batsman but he tends to throw his wicket far too often to loose shots, something he needs to work on.  
  • The middle order batting consisting of Babar, Jodha and Suri has the problem that they are inherently attacking batsmen who take chances.  When it comes off, it is fun to watch as runs come in a hurry.  When it doesn't, the batting will be in disarray.
  • Part of the strength of the US team is its all-rounders -- Salman and Hamad.  Both are batsmen who are gritty, put a price on their wicket and can wield the long handle very effectively when needed.  It shouldn't be lost that Hamad took the USA score from 121 to 143 in the Canada match in the company of the #10 batsman, Mital.   Those 22 runs ultimately were the difference between the two sides.
  • Hard to say that US boasts a fine fielding side.  It appears average with a good upside if trained by the likes of Robin Singh.  Several catches were put down, some easy, but it never cost the US too much.  This will not continue to be the case in Ireland and beyond.  Taylor is an okay wicket keeper -- not bad but not great.  And the fact that he opens the batting means that the side needs a true wicket keeper so that Taylor can focus on his batting up top.
  • In the 14, Trevor Singh is a good upcoming batsman but he is not yet ready for U19 level cricket when there are better options in the reserves.  The two pacers, Kalim and Waleed, are unlikely to get a game given that in addition to the fast bowlers in the 11, the likes of Jodhbir and Joshi can bowl effective medium pace.  So having both these pacers in the 14 is a waste.
  • In the reserves, Akash should find a place in the playing 11 especially against good opposition on sporting tracks.  He is a technically-strong and dependable batsman and he also keeps wickets regularly for his A division Northern California league side.   Krish is also a player who deserves a close look as he is a good batsman and a good off spinner.    Both of them did quite well in the Western Conference U19 matches and the December trials which should bode well.  In fact, the NWR side that they played for and that Suri captained easily handled the SWR bowling side which is effectively the US bowling side in 2010.
Now a look at the coach, support staff and selectors.
  • I like Robin Singh as coach.  His demeanor is just right.  He does not get carried away and he is not stingy when praise is due.    Hope he returns.
  • I do not like the selection committee.   Sew Shivnarine, an experienced top-class cricketer, tends to dominate the committee with his strong views, some his own and some maybe whispered into his ear.  He ignores statistics and recent performances and also seems to ignore what Abrar Ahmed and Sunny Khan, the other selectors, may have to say.  He may feel, and arguably so, that that they haven't played enough cricket to be selectors.  But that shouldn't mean that he has full and total control of picking the 14 and possibly the 11.  Let us not forget that his performance as coach in New Zealand (U19 WC 2010) was disastrous.  Not that they lost most of their matches (they finished 15 out of 16), but the team did not appear to play for him as the tournament progressed.  That is not good.
  • I am also against support staff like physio and manager being USACA board members or closely connected with USACA administration.  Far too much conflict of interest.  Masood, USACA Board Rep for CER, is a physiotherapist by training but having him in the mix can make things complicated.  There is evidence that it has.  Not sure about what influence manager King had on the side. And having Sew around would have made Robin's job that much harder as Sew happens to the ex-coach who likely thought he was going to get the job again until Robin was given it.
The US side can finish in the top six in Ireland and should do so given the other nine countries in the mix.  But the goal should be to be in the top 12 in the U19 World Cup in 2012.  Anything less should be considered a disappointment.     To achieve the goal of top 12, merit and performance should be the guide, not power politics that we have seen far too often in the US to our own detriment.

February 12, 2011

USA are the 2011 ICC Americas U19 Champions!

USA beat Canada in a tense rain-affected low-scoring affair to win the 2011 ICC Americas U19 Championship.  Congratulations are due to the entire USA U19 team and its coach, Robin Singh, for winning this tournament with a convincing 5-0 record.

Morning rain delayed the start of play to noon which made it a 36 over match.  USA won the toss and decided to bat, only the second time that they have done so in this tournament, and managed to get to 143 for 8 in 36 overs.  Taylor (21) and Mirza (29) put on 37 for the first wicket in 8 overs but the middle order failed leaving USA in trouble at 93 for 7.  Pranay (34) and Hamad (17) took the score to 121 with a vital partnership when Pranay departed and Hamad did well in the company of tail-ender Mital Patel to get to 143 for 8.  This was a low score but still could be defended if pressure could be put on the Canadians when they batted.  

The Canadians started sedately and put on 32 runs for the first wicket and thanks to a 50 run partnership between Edghill and Ali got the score to 91 for 2 in 26 overs leaving 60 balls to get 52 runs.  The pressure got to the Canadians as they played poor shots to some inspired tight bowling and lost wickets at regular intervals to find themselves short by 23 runs in 34.2 overs.   It should be said that the Canadian side that US will see in Ireland will  be stronger as it will have three players who are currently playing for the senior Canadian side in the upcoming 2011 ICC World Cup in the subcontinent.

USA bowled quite well to defend the low total highlighting their strength in bowling with Hamad and Ahmad leading from the front and the rest supporting them well.  However, the American batting has to be a worry as they think about the next round.  It is clear that they need solidity in the middle order if they are to compete successfully from here on as sides they will see will be much more competitive than were encountered in the Americas tournament.  The American fielding also was spotty -- a few catches were spilled and Taylor wasn't at his sharpest behind the stumps.  This is another area that needs to be looked at and improved considerably.  As far as batting is concerned, Pranay Suri, batting for the first time in this tournament despite his considerable performances this year, may have been a revelation to some at USACA.  Folks in the west coast know not only of Pranay's cricketing talent but of others, currently languishing in reserves, who would bring much needed batting depth and solidity to the side.

When all is said and done, US has a good chance to go to the WC 2012 U19 tournament.  They need finish in the top six in Ireland but for that to happen, they need to make sure that they send the best side for the global qualifiers to deal with challenging conditions and strong opposition.  This almost never happens in US cricket mostly because "quid pro quos" dominate how USACA goes about selecting teams.   Unless this changes and changes significantly, there is very little hope that the best sides will play and put their best foot forward.

We owe it to our cricketers, young and not-so-young, and to US cricket fans, to select the best teams based on talent and performance without assorted biases and preferences that have very little to do with real cricket.  Will that happen?  Time will tell and you and I can make a difference by helping elect the right folks in local, regional and national elections.

February 11, 2011

USA U19 blitzes past Bermuda to qualify for the Global Qualifiers

The USA U19 made quick work of Bermuda by dismissing them for just 50 and getting those runs without losing a wicket and doing so before the rains arrived.  They have now qualified for the next round on the road to the ICC U19 World Cup in 2012. 

USA U19 has had a dominant week with ball and bat.  When they have batted first (once against Argentina) they have put up an imposing total.  When they have bowled first, they have gone through the top order like sharp knife through warm butter with spinners mopping up the tail with regularity.  The catching has been decent enough that they have not let any batsman off who has subsequently scored.  They fully deserve to go through to the next round in Ireland and have a real chance to qualify for the 2012 U19 World Cup if current form and talent is any indication.

There is one thing to settle which is the bragging rights for ICC Americas U19 with their arch-rivals, Canada.  That match is on Saturday in the stadium -- a perfect setting for the finale.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate.  It will be a very good test for where US U19 cricket is at this stage relative to Canada despite Canada missing their top three U19 players who are with the senior side at the moment.  The US side appears to have the momentum and the edge but that is why they play the game.

One comment about the other sides in this ICC Americas U19 tournament.  These teams have been very disappointing, particularly Bermuda which is well funded and has the best of resources and should be expected to fare better, much better.  For perspective, the US NWR U19 team has not lost to US SWR U19s in the last year (they have played twice) despite the four bowlers from SWR U19 (Salman, Shahid, Gurpreet, Abdulghani) being dominant bowlers for US in this tournament.  That speaks to the depth that US cricket has, particularly in the west coast.

February 10, 2011

US U19 faces its stiffest challenges in the last two matches

The US U19 team has disposed of the admittedly feeble opposition with efficacy and is now tied for first place with Canada with three wins.  Bermuda which lost to Canada has two wins including a much improved winning performance on Wednesday against the Bahamas.  US takes on Bermuda on Friday in an important match.  If US wins, it is through to the global qualifiers regardless of the outcome of its last match with Canada.  If Bermuda wins and also wins its last match against Argentina which is expected, then US has to beat Canada in its last match and finish ahead of Bermuda on NRR to move forward. If Friday's match is abandoned due to rain which is in the forecast, then US can still go through, even if it loses to Canada, with a better NRR than Bermuda. 

With the exception of Suri, all the front-line bowlers have been given opportunities to get acclimatized as well as perform.  And they have done quite well by making short work of the weak batting lineups they have seen.  Catching and fielding has been fairly good although some chances have been put down.  From a batting standpoint, Mirza and Taylor have scored heavily but the rest of the lineup, notably Joshi, Babar and Jodhbir, have not spent that much time in the middle.   That is a concern as the US middle order may be asked to chase down a total or get enough runs on the board.

The US boys have a lot to play for, that too against a better opposition than they have faced to date.  They should treat it as a "must win" and not "experiment" with their batting and bowling options.  Some would say these are not experiments as much as pressure from USACA power brokers to have a particular combination as well as specific batting and bowling lineups. 

Bermudan players to watch for on recent form are Gilbert, Burgess, Leverock as batsmen and Fubler, Gilbert and Bell as bowlers.  American players to watch for in this key encounter are Taylor, Mirza, and Joshi as batsmen and Shahid, Ahmad and Abdulghani as bowlers.

February 8, 2011

USA U19 impresses with big wins against Argentina, Bahamas and Cayman Island

Match 1: USA vs Argentina: The land of Maradona is not known for its cricket and it showed when the Argentinian U19s played the USA U19 in the first match of the 2011 ICC Americas U19 Tournament.  They were comprehensively beaten in all aspects of the game.  The USA openers, Taylor and Mirza, got big scores including a maiden U19 hundred by Mizra, against what appeared to be mostly inept bowling with Ahmad completing the battering to post a 300+ score.  The Argentinians in reply were no match whatsoever having been bundled out for 30 odd.

Match 2: USA vs Bahamas:  While admittedly stronger than Argentina, Bahamas struggled to put up a half decent score and lost most of their wickets against the second-line bowlers of USA.   USA polished of the total while losing Taylor who perished attempting to polish off the total in one swing. 

Match 3: USA vs Cayman Islands.  Once USA got rid of their star batsman, Sacha De Alwis, it was never competitive as Cayman was dismissed for 40 and a helmet-less Taylor got the runs in a hurry while Babar played second fiddle.

Winning against minnows is expected but it must be said that USA has put them away with ease and helped themselves to the most favorable NRR in case rain plays spoil sport.  They play a disappointing Bermuda side on Friday and arch rivals Canada on Saturday.  A win against either of these teams should assure them of a trip to Ireland for the global qualifiers although a win against Bermuda would be preferred and more likely.

Team selection continues to confound.  Off-spinning all-rounder Pranay Suri was in the XI only to be scratched at the last minute for a pacer, ostensibly because of the "conditions."   As it turns out, the conditions favored the spinners as much as the pacers, if not more, making the scratch decision drip with bias and smell bad.   But there is plenty of deodorant to go around so everything looks good and smells good. 

January 31, 2011

Preview of the 2011 Edition of the ICC Americas U-19 Cricket Championship

The Fort Lauderdale area in Florida will host the 2011 edition of the U19 ICC Americas Championship.  Six countries are participating including Argentina, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, and hosts USA.  Top two finishers go on to the ICC U19 Global Qualifiers Championship in the summer in Ireland where two teams each from other regions of the world play against each other and the top six go to the ICC U19 World Cup to be held in 2012.

The USA U19 team was recently announced along with the surprise announcement that Robin Singh (who represented India mostly in ODI cricket) will be the coach.   While Robin Singh has a very good track record as an international coach and his worth ethic as a player was second to none in the Indian teams he played on, his appointment was to a position that no one knew was open except in the smoky back rooms at USACA HQ.   As they say, business as usual at USACA.

In the announced team, Abhijit Joshi has been appointed captain with Stephen Taylor appointed vice-captain. The batsmen are Steve Taylor, Abhijit Joshi, Fahad Babar, Jodha Singh, Trevor Singh, and Cameron Mirza.  The all-rounders are Pranay Suri, Salman Ahmed, Hamad Shahid, Gurpreet Sandhu, and Mital Patel.  The bowlers are Shayan Abdulghani, Kalim Ahmed and Walid Karimullah.   The only wicket keeper on the team is Stephen Taylor who also opens the innings when batting.  Four of the US players were part of the 2010 U19 World Cup campaign - Joshi, Taylor, Shahid, and Ahmed.

The USA team starts the tournament against Argentina on Monday February 7, followed by Cayman Islands and Bahamas on successive days.  Thursday is a rest day for all teams.  Then USA plays what appear to be two crucial matches, back to back, against Bermuda and Canada.

One concern for the USA team is the lack of batting depth.  Unless Steve Taylor, Abhijit Joshi, Fahad Babar and Jodha Singh perform at a peak level, US will become overly dependent on the all rounders to post winnable scores or chase large totals.  This may not matter against the weaker opponents but is a real concern against strong teams like Bermuda and Canada.    The bowling department is perhaps the strongest with Hamad Shahid being a true strike pacer and Pranay whose off spin will pose problems for technically deficient batsmen.   Both of these bowlers should be supported well by the likes of Salman Ahmed and Shayan Abdulghani.   The fielding strength is an unknown as most of the players are not noted for being outstanding fielders or catchers.  The lack of a backup wicket-keeper may become an issue as the tournament progresses as Stephen Taylor, who recently recovered from traffic accident-related injuries, will be doubling as an opening bat and keeper -- a demanding double role.

The Bermuda team led by Joshua Gilbert is a young one but has the benefit of five players who have played as part of the the national senior side in WCL Division 2 in the past year. While captain Gilbert has been quite confident of finishing at the top, their Australian coach, David Moore, has been somewhat more guarded on the team's chances. This time of year being cricket off-season in Bermuda has meant that the team has been short of match practice. Joshua Gilbert, Greg Maybury, Kamau Leverock and Kevon Fubler are players to watch from this side as they try to dethrone Canada as the reigning ICC Americas U19 champions. 

The Canadian team led by Kesavan Juvarajan is also a young team with Riyankhan Pathan and Manny Aulakh returning from their reasonably successful 2010 U19 World Cup campaign.  They will surely miss Hiral Patel, Parth Desai, and Nitish Kumar, who are all part of the senior team which is now in India for the ICC 2011 World Cup.  However, the U19s spent the past week in Trinidad and Tobago playing four matches as part of their preparation and should be expected to be ready to defend their throne.

USA should do well in home conditions but lack of preparation as a unit with the recently-arrived new coach and potential lack of batting depth would need to be overcome for a successful campaign.  The team should benefit from the fact that its first three matches are against traditionally weaker teams which could help it build momentum.   It may well come down to the outcome of the last match of the tournament when traditional rivals, Canada and USA, play each other that determines the top two teams that head across the Atlantic to Ireland this summer.

Weather forecast for the coming week in the Fort Lauderdale area starts of sunny and warm and then cools down with a few showers around as the week progresses.  Still that should be good enough weather for exciting cricket by the cricket stars of tomorrow in these parts of the world.

January 28, 2011

Messiah's Men mess up in the 2011 WCL Division 3 Tournament

It isn't the lack of talent or the lack of resources but somehow the USA's senior team managed to not only not get promoted but took the elevator down to WCL Division 4.   There will be many views on why this happened but one cannot escape the sense one got that they were over-confident, they even felt entitled, they didn't seem to play as a unit, and their age showed.  Their batting was particularly vulnerable with ill-advised shot making costing them dearly.  Catching wasn't their strong point either with several drops and run-out misses.  They did have good moments -- the win over Hong Kong was an impressive one and the fightback win over Oman after being nearly done and dusted at 20 for 7 chasing 122.  And, of course, they likely got the raw end of many decisions. 

This was a team that was picked not because the players had performed of late but because they were mostly an established albeit aging group who appeared to be successful.   I think with this debacle, it is time for many of the older players to move on and for younger ones to find their places and get their feet wet as they attempt to get up to WCL Division 3 in the next couple of years.  Any player who is over 35 who plays ODI cricket better be incredibly fit or incredibly skilled.  I don't think US has such players.  So youth is the way to go.

Lets not forget that team management must have been an issue especially when the assistant coach is asked to play and he gladly does.  The performances of the manager, coach and other staff needs to be carefully evaluated given some of the bizarre decisions regarding team composition.

Dainty and company back in the US should feel quite embarassed by this demotion and use it as a forcing function for changes that ultimately make US cricket better.  What most people in the know will tell you and me is that no such thing will happen because the current crew at USACA is not interested in winning but mostly interested in the perks and privileges that come with staying in power. 

To me, this lack of desire to win at the highest level of cricket managememt is the saddest part of all this.

January 27, 2011

2011 U19 Team Selection - Business as Usual at USACA

The usual mix of deserving players and privileged players make up the U19 National side for the crucial qualifiers in February.  Unless US finishes in the top two in these qualifiers with reigning champions Canada and a strong Bermuda team also in the reckoning, their quest for being part of the 2012 U19 World Cup will be over. 

From the Western Conference, the South-West Region boasts four players in the fourteen including one whose batting and bowling performances were decidedly sub-par in the Western Conference matches and in the aborted National Championships.  The North-West Region which easily won the Western Conference Championship and was unbeaten in the aborted National Championships only has two players to show for its undefeated record.  The Central-East Region which did not even qualify for the National Championships has two players and the Central-West region has no representation.

From the Eastern Conference, the Atlantic Region has three players including one who was not even in the list of 21 players invited for the trials.   The New York region has two players, neither of whom appeared to have any notable performances in the Eastern Conference tournament.  The South-East Region has only one player despite qualifying for the national championships.

To call this the best of the nation's U19 would be hard to defend.  What one could settle for is that there are about six players who clearly deserve to be in the side and about four players who clearly are privileged and thus find themselves in the side.  What should concern us is that both Bermuda and Canada youth programmes have progressed significantly in the last couple of years and their sides would be very competitive in the fight for the top two spots in the ICC U19 Americas Tournament in two weeks.  Unless the deserving US players perform at a peak level, US could well find itself out of contention for the ICC U19 World Cup in 2012 as early as February 2011.  

A bit about how to be a privileged player from what I have been able to glean from talking to various folks across the country.   It helps to be from the right region -- one whose regional representative is aligned with the power base at USACA, currently spelt "Dainty."  It helps even more to be from the right league in any region so that you can trade your vote in the upcoming USACA elections for a spot for your beloved player in the national team and a blazer to boot.  It really helps if you are successful in forming your own league and having it approved by USACA only because you want your offsprings to play on national teams.  That makes "vote for spot" principle quite easy to implement.   This is much more common than you and I think.

Now a bit about how to be a deserving player in the mix.  It is harder than you think especially if you are from a region or a league that the current power base at USACA happens to dislike.  The NWR is a classic example of this where they find themselves at odds with the current USACA power base so they are lucky to even have two players in the side, both deserving.  (In the senior side, they have a sum total of 0 despite having won the national championships.) 

Now many of you might wonder how the selectors play into this.  Well they play into this as much as the average puppet plays into its performance.  Their strings are pulled by the region they belong to but the real selection is done by USACA top management where region and league allegiances, voting ramifications, assorted quid pro quos are fully and duly considered.  In that way, USACA is quite thorough and rarely makes mistakes. 

So when the national side lays an egg like the senior side has been seen to do on a couple of occassions in the last week, don't blame the team or team managament.  Blame the deal makers at USACA who probably care much less about on-the-field performances and much more about staying in power and having an occassional dip into the coffers from your and my dues as well as ICC's handouts for a trip here and an outing there.  Also blame the parochial league management and dysfunctional regional managements across this land who will also do anything to stay in power and at times gain privilege for their offsprings and their friends at the expense of the rest.

As Eisenhower once said "A people (aka USACA) that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."  

Lets hope the "soon" is sooner than later and not never.

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