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 http://calcricket.org/nationals.

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. 

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