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West Indies Stars Visit Highlighted 2006
National Developments

By Orin Davidson
Unprecedented levels of success put a positive glow on the results charts for United States cricket in 2006, but the same level of achievement in infrastructure development did not make the year the best ever for the sport.

But the biggest story in United States cricket for the year was the acquiring of the star-studded West Indies team to play a series of two matches at Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Park against a United States All Star team

Triple world record holder Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shiv Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Fidel Edwards, Corey Collymore, Ian Bradshaw, Dinesh Ramdin, Darren Ganga, Dwayne Smith, Wavell Hinds and Rawle Lewis displayed their skill for the first time as a team in New York to capacity crowds.

Thanks to the zeal and negotiating skills of the Cricket International organizing team in collaboration with United Promoters, the players especially Lara, Gayle and Sarwan provided high class entertainment on the July 8-9 weekend, despite many doubters who never thought it possible.

The series not only provided caliber exposure to the likes of Steve Massiah, Rashard Marshall, Orlando Baker, Sushil Nadkarni, Imran Iwan and Gowkarran Roopnarine, but also brought a new sense of awareness to United States fans.

Massiah, did well as was Baker, but the Man of the Series was 23-year-old batsman Marshall who blasted a boundary laden 90 in a lightening fast 54 balls in the first game.

However, the Jamaica-born player is still to make his U.S. debut.

He suffered an injury shortly after the series and ultra conservative selectors decided to omit him prematurely for the Americas Cup.

With hundreds of youngsters getting up close and personal to Lara and company, many serious new players were transformed that weekend.

The United States senior team was a hit at the Americas Cup finishing second to favorites Bermuda after wide-ranging reform in the composition of the squad. It was the biggest competition of the year for the seniors and their performance proved that had the powers that be, used their wisdom one year earlier, the team would’ve been preparing for the World Cup presently.

Were it not for a last game stumble when the U.S. lost to Canada, they would’ve won the Americans Cup and embarrassed, Bermuda and hosts Canada , two of the five Associate Member World Cup qualifiers.

The competition provided star batsman Massiah with another opportunity to climb higher from all-comers as this country’s all time most accomplished batsman.

He hit one century and two half centuries to return an aggregate of 283 runs for an average of 70 to maintain his remarkable reputation of scoring centuries in all his tours with United States teams.

Of the many newcomers, all of whom made the squad younger by several years, Nadkarni, a former India-Under-19 player, made his presence felt with a century and a half century.

The team also welcomed into its fold New York’s most popular player, the prolific Lennox Cush who assumed United States residency in time to make his debut in the summer.

On the junior front, the national Under-19 team created history by winning this country’s first match in World Cup competition. Being the first ever United States team to qualify at either level of the world’s biggest limited overs competition, the juniors led by Hemant Poonoo beat Namibia, at the Singhalese Club in Sri Lanka to end with one win from five games, in a commendable debut performance.

The players showed they were equally talented as their Under-19 rivals but lacked the experience of playing consistently well for 100 overs. Their losses were to power houses Australia, West Indies, South Africa and New Zealand.

The U.S team’s qualification was achieved from winning last year’s Under-19 Americas Cup.

The performances were made more remarkable despite the continuing malaise of insufficient acceptable playing facilities in the country

Plans to upgrade Floyd Bennett field to One Day International standard venue stalled badly, which leaves Woodley Park in Los Angeles and Florida’s Brian Piccolo Park as the lone two facilities with turf pitches and outfields worthy of first class recognition.

Problems also slowed the completion of the first ever stadium in Broward County in Florida, but word is that the 35,000 seat facility will be completed next year.

Because of the unavailability of such a facility, Americans were denied the opportunity of enjoying the talents of the world’s best players in the flesh.

The Tri-Series featuring world champions Australia, West Indies and India was originally scheduled for America but was forced to be shifted to Malaysia because none of the existing facilities here met acceptable standards.

However, some consolation was had in Miramar, Florida where a better than normal new facility is being built by the city.

Complete with lights and a small electronic scoreboard the facility which will have turf pitches with two fields, is the most advanced currently in the country. Much kudos are in store for the city officials who have invested in a non mainstream American sport without much prodding by the cricket fraternity.

This year a new Regional senior champion team was crowned when New Jersey (Atlantic Region) played unbeaten in the national playoffs in Florida staged at Miramar Park.

Showcasing an array of young talent molded by efficient administration in New Jersey, the team put away Texas (Central West) Florida (South East) and Southern California (South West).

Comprising the likes of Marshall and national players Chintan Patel, Roopnarine and Iwan, New Jersey won their national title with the ease of perennial champs after holders New York failed to make the playoffs.

Texas led the also-rans while Southern California failed to win a single game.

Northern California (North West) turned the form book upside down to capture the Regional Under-19 crown in Florida.

They won both of their games in a truncated playoff series which only lasted two days and comprised semi-finals, final and third place playoff and was plagued by charges of organizing problems.

New York, which fielded one of its best squads ever on paper, had a bad first day which torpedoed a successful defense of their title and had to settle for third place.

New Jersey lost a nail-biter in the final to Northern California to take the runner-up spot.

Elections-wise, the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) maneuvered its way into having the executive balloting postponed to March 2007, despite reservations from the world body International Cricket Council (ICC).

The installing of a new constitution was the reason, as USACA cited the delay in its drafting and the lengthy time needed to have the 600-odd affiliated clubs’ approval.

USACA also notched a marketing deal with top Scottish firm Centrix to promote matches and market the sport in America which is by far their most notable achievement in 2006.

New York Development
Even before New York fans enjoyed the euphoria of seeing the West Indies team perform in Brooklyn, they endured their biggest humiliation in years when the senior squad was ditched in the Eastern Conference series.

As defending champions, New York was supposed to walk through the preliminaries to the bigger stage at the national playoffs, but a combination of inspired performances from New Jersey and Florida and bad luck conspired to hand the team its first elimination ever in the Eastern Conference series.

Without the means by officials to work out the complexities of the Duckworth-Lewis system for rain shortened games, New York lost to New Jersey in a thriller after the latter was a set a revised unfair target, in the first game.

After disposing of Connecticut, New York collapsed to lose another shocker to Florida in the must-win game to make the finals, leaving the latter and New Jersey as the qualifiers.

Around the leagues, the new 20/20 game came into prominence but not many surprises ensued in the traditional 50 overs a side competitions. New York Challengers captured the Eastern American Big Four title from a resurgent Everest which went on to take the 20/20 title.

Aroma topped the 60-team Commonwealth league in the Division A competition to win for the fourth time while Villagers reigned supreme in the Metropolitan League.

In Brooklyn, Roraima and Cavaliers shared the spoils in the League and Knockout competitions.

Under-19 teams had the first time experience of a competition of their own, thanks to coach Linden Fraser who was the main influence behind the staging of the inaugural Tri State series which also involved teams from New Jersey.

Eastern American Youths led by Regional team captain Karran Ganesh, won out from
Tri State Youths in the final.

Cricket International Youths and New Jersey Youths were the other teams which finished the series.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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