By Lloyd Jodah
A year ago John Aaron, in an article wrote that Cameron Mirza, “has been grabbing every opportunity to be ready when the call to national service comes.” With tremendous investment and commitment from his parents, Cameron Mirza has been coached in New Jersey by Ian Pont, in New York by Linden Fraser, England, India and South Africa.
Featured in the Rohit Kulkarni independent documentary film Pitch of Dreams: Cricket in America, produced by City Lights, Cameron Mirza has always been a star in the making.
Today Cameron’s parents and all of his coaches can feel a great sense of satisfaction as Mirza became the first USA Under-19 player to score a century, as the USA squashed Argentina by 285 runs on a side field at Central Broward Regional Park and Cricket Stadium in Florida, in the ICC Americas Qualifier for the 2012 Under-19 World Cup.
New USA Under-19 Coach Robin Singh said he chose Cameron to open the batting with Steven Taylor (vice captain) as he felt Cameron had the temperament to slowly build an innings, and was his decision vindicated! Cameron smartly held his end down as the left-handed Steven Taylor attacked the Argentineans bowling. Taylor’s 50 came in 31 balls and he went on to smash 83 runs, including 8 fours and 4 mighty sixes. The Vice Captain’s entertaining knock of 83 had come out of a partnership of 116 runs with Mirza, but disappointingly on the first ball after the water break, he gave an easy catch to Agustin Hussain at mid-wicket off Lautaro Musiani.
At the 2010 World Cup in February Under-19 USA opener Henry Wardley had said of Taylor, “I like batting with Steven, his approach takes the pressure off of me” and Mirza must have felt the same way.
Following Taylor’s departure with the score at 116/1, Mirza went on the attack, hitting successive fours as two more quick wickets fell, those of captain Abhijit Joshi, 7 and Faahd Babar, for a duck. Trevor Singh stayed around for 28 runs and a partnership of 46 with Mirza, before he missed a pull and was bowled by off-spinner Ezequiel Gonzalez Sutil. Jodbhir Singh was caught for 2 and in walked the tall USA fast bowler Salman Ahmad.
Ahmad recently played in the American College Cricket West Coast Championship, where he was favorably noticed and was featured in the Los Angeles Daily News. But the new found celebrity fame had not gone to the young man’s head, he started slowly, and then struck 4 fours and 4 sixes in the span of 9 balls to reach his 50 in just 24 balls.
Cameron Mirza in the meantime moved towards his century, getting stuck a bit on 95, before getting a single behind point to make a century upon his USA debut, and become the first Under-19 USA player to score a century. Afterwards he told Dreamcricket.com “It was one of the best feelings I’ve had playing cricket.” Mirza’s century came in 125 balls with 10 fours, finally, his 118 not out was struck off of 137 deliveries, with 12 boundaries.
Mirza and Ahmad’s unbeaten sixth-wicket partnership put on 100 runs, as Cameron finished on 118 not out, and Salman Ahmad on 62 not out.
The USA fast bowlers then made short work of the Argentineans with none of the batsmen reaching double figures as the team’s innings ended at 34 for 9 wickets in 17.4 overs. Argentina’s wicketkeeper was injured earlier in the match and did not bat. Salman Ahmad turned in an MVP type performance by taking 4 wickets for 10 runs in 6 overs in addition to his 62*. However awarding the Man-of-the-Match to Cameron Mirza seemed like the only natural thing to do.
USA Coach Robin Singh the other 2010 World Cup veteran Hammad Shahid took 2 wickets for 6 runs whilst Rutgers fast bowler Mital Patel, making his USA debut took 2 wickets for 9 runs in 3 overs, and was on a hat-trick at one stage.
Afterwards USA coach Robin Singh was Belichick-like in speaking about the areas to be improved, rather than getting carried away with the win against a weak opponent. Clearly a coach who seems likely to keep his team focused.
Lloyd Jodah is President of American College Cricket