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New York Faces Acid Test
As Eastern Conference Playoffs Bowl Off

By Orin Davidson
July 4th, 2008
Cricket in New York faces an acid test from today in the Big Apple.

Richard Staple

The game is not in danger of a mass boycott of players at mid season for some heinous wrong perpetrated, rather the players competing in the Eastern Conference playoffs of the National Championships, have a big responsibility on their hands over the weekend.

All of because of a rather listless performance by the United States in the preliminary competition for World Cup 2011, where they were knocked out in the first round involving the lowest ranked teams in international cricket, big performances are needed today to re-engage the overwhelming interest of supporters.

New York, which comprised the core of the national team, therefore not only need to win the competition that begins today, they have to do so in emphatic manner.

As a result it places the new look Big Apple squad under double pressure, knowing they have not won the Eastern Conference title for three years, which to many is a huge indictment on the team given New York’s reputation as the hotbed of cricket in the entire country.

Fans are still reeling from the World Cup letdown, as this year was supposed to be the time when the country was expected to finally stamp its authority in international competition, with more players involved in competition which is at its peak in terms of frequency and numbers.

The other three teams that comprise the Eastern Conference, defending champions New Jersey (Atlantic Region), Florida (South East) and Connecticut ( North East), are also under pressure to justify the support they get in their respective Regions, given their contributions to the national team’s meltdown in the World Cup.

It therefore explains the pressure the host team finds itself under.

And New York’s job has not been made any easier, given the loss of key players and a desire by the recently formed New York Inc. body now in charge of running the sport, to verve off in a slightly different direction in selection policy.

Top all-rounder Orlando Baker will be missing this year, having relocated to Texas for whom he will be representing this year in the Western Conference playoffs.

Also, the talented but quirky opening batsman Carl Wright is out for the second straight year, due to lack of interest.

And the decision to replace the two players’ with the required experience, with the recall of retired Richard Staple, and Kester Sylvester is an interesting development.

It is still not very clear whether the selection rules that govern national team selection is in place for this competition where teams cannot have more than two non resident players, but you would think the selectors could’ve done a better job in persuading Deryck Kallicharran to suit up.

And what about the run machine Debo Sankar? He surely would’ve been a good choice too, barring injury or relocation.

Nevertheless, given the below par state of cricket administration in these parts, the impression is that the selectors tried their best.

But in a perfect world, more investment in the young players was required in the 14 players selected.

If the selectors had done more home work, they would’ve come up with at least one youngster Nicholas Stanford, who along with, Gregory Sewdial and Karran Ganesh should all be in the 14.

These are all proven young players that, given the chance, could do better than a lot of experienced names in the lineup.

Obviously, the selectors have not learnt the World Cup experiences over the years where the older players have not produced the goods.

The acquisition of Atlantic Region and national fast bowler Imran Iwan came as a shock. Team captain Steve Massiah explained that the Pakistan-born speed ace had indicated his desire to represent New York, by virtue of playing in the Nassau League.

Thus New York stole the opportunity, but although Iwan is a wicket taker, he has tended to be expensive in international competition, but should be more effective in domestic competition.

Of course defending champions New Jersey (Atlantic) is powerful enough to give New York headaches once again like they did in 2007 and 2006.

From all appearances they will be coming strong again despite the loss of Iowan. It means New York will need that type of epic performance in their anticipated crucial showdown on Sunday at Idlewild Park.

Nothing less would bring the fans back in love with local cricket.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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