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Can The 2010 U-19 USA Team Top the 2006 U-19 USA Team?

Jan. 7th, 2010
With Team USA now in New Zealand to continue preparations for, and to compete in the ICC 2010 Under-19 World Cup, it’s a good time to take a look back at the USA Under-19 team's sterling effort at the 2006 World Cup in Sri Lanka.

USA under-19 2006 team in Sri Lanka.

The USA, captained by Hemant Punoo, was one of the only non-Test playing countries to qualify for that World Cup, despite the fact that the US had only begun an Under-19 Tournament just the year before. The team did so well that Cricinfo.com reported, "It was the first US team ever to manage a clean 4-0 sweep in an ICC tournament (the Qualifier in Canada. It was the first (USA Team) to qualify for a World Cup tournament. Even in losing, the USA posted better performances than any first-time team in a World Cup. They also made the semi-finals of an ICC tournament (the Plate Championship) in their very first appearance on the international stage."

Andre Kirton, Romeno Deane and Sumon Bari were three of the players on that 2006 Under-19 squad, managed by Ashok Patel. Patel, of the USA Cricket Academy, along with coach Linden Fraser, was one of the few people at the time trying to develop youth cricket. Kirton, Deane and Bari recently talked about their World Cup experience.

What was it like to be in Sri Lanka for the World Cup?
Sumon Bari said, "It was an awesome feeling, I had never had before." 
Kirton said "It was the best tour, the cricket was competitive - we wanted to beat the guys from Test countries, and they didn't want to lose to us. The Sri Lankan hospitality was awesome."
Deane too, Had a great experience, the place was so beautiful and the people so respectful." 

What could Team USA have done better?
The players were unanimous in feeling that the 2006 USA Team had the ability to match the other teams. However they felt they "lacked cohesiveness, preparation and experience." In fact they said that they had no experience playing with a white ball prior to the World Cup, and this made a huge difference.
Kirton explained "There is a big difference between playing with a red ball and a white ball, for example the white ball swings differently. It was good to see the 2010 Team USA (U-19) getting more preparation and coaching from the New Zealand coaches."

What advice would you give to the 2010 U-19 Team USA?
Kirton cautioned, "Don't go in thinking you can win the World Cup, take one game at a time. When you have the pressure on the other team, don't let up, don't try anything fancy, just stick to what's working."
Kirton also felt we should learn from the other teams."Watch how they will take singles and put pressure on the fielders, remember a misfield on those smooth outfields can result in two more runs or even a boundary. Take singles but be careful, the ball will also get to the fielders quicker than on our slower grounds."
Bari added, "Stick to your priorities and don't lose sight of the purpose."
Deane said, "On a tour it can be tempting to go out or party, but winning is the most fun."
In 2006 Hemant Punoo made the highest score (65) for the USA and captained the team well by all accounts, but now he no longer plays competitive cricket. Meanwhile many of his contemporaries in the Test-playing countries have progressed, some to playing Test cricket.

Do you see better prospects now for the USA Under-19 cricketers after they return and have outgrown the Under-19 stage?
Kirton said, "Of the 16 USA players from 2006 only Akeem Dodson has made it into the USA Men's senior team, so it can be discouraging but the biggest thing happening for cricket right now in America, is the American College Cricket Championship. It is going to be bigger than most people can imagine, it will blow up man!"
Deane added, "It will bring out so much talent, like the IPL did in India. Plus, many of the guys on the current Under-19 USA team are presently enrolled in universities and would love the chance to be part of the American College sports scene." 
Bari concluded, "Now, young American cricketers will have more opportunities."

How do you think we will do at the 2010 World Cup (Under-19) in New Zealand?
Deane, was quick to state, "We have the talent to match up against the world's best...we just have to focus on winning one game at a time."
Bari wishes the players, all the very best, adding, "I hope they will do even better than the 2006 Team. Good luck."
Kirton remarked, "I know a lot of the guys, and they have their heart in this. The opponents will be tough but I think we have a very good motivated team."
The village of Port Mourant in Guyana, has produced some of that country's best Test batsmen including Rohan Kanhai and Alvin Kallicharran, so when I was asked this past summer if I wanted to play as an "Honorary" Port Mourantian in a Reunion Match in Queens, NY, I was honored.
Like those great batsmen I went in at number three and shared a good partnership with someone who batted like a great batsman. I later found out that the batsman was Hemant Punoo, a player, who would have been an extraordinary talent on the current USA Under-19 squad in New Zealand.
Contributed by Lloyd Jodah

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