By Lloyd Jodah
Gurpreet Sandhu will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day this year with great fervor ! In fact from green fields to green four leaf clovers, our Under 19 cricket lads will be getting their Irish on as the team Marched today into the ICC Global Qualifiers in Ireland this summer – one jig closer to the 2012 Under 19 World Cup!

Gurpreet Sandhu had 5 for 7. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

The first recorded cricket match in Bermuda occurred on 30 August 1844. Some international games were played against American sides, principally from Philadelphia, in the late 1800s, so the island has a long cricket history and cricket is the national sport. Bermuda qualified for the  2007 World Cup but lost all their games but allowed India to make the highest total in ICC World Cup history: 413/5.

At the Under 19 level Bermuda played in the 2008 U 19 World Cup (whilst the USA was under suspension). About the  2011 Under 19 Bermuda team, at the ICC Americas World Cup Qualifier in Florida, Head Coach David Moore said, “There are already a number of athletes that have played National team cricket, including Joshua Gilbert, Christian Burgess, Kevon Fubler, Damali Bell and Kamau Leverock.”

So the expectation was that Bermuda would give the USA U 19 Team its toughest challenge to date at this tournament. On an overcast day at Brian Piccolo Park on a pitch that had enough green on it to help the pacers it was no surprise that USA Captain Abhijit Joshi won the toss but decided to field.

Salman Ahmad and Hammid Shahid opened the bowling for the USA and Salman on his second delivery bowled Christian Burgess with a yorker. With the ball swinging ,the 6’5 Salman wrecked Kamau Levereck’s stumps in the 4th over and Bermuda was 20 for 2. An inswinger from leg then rearranged White’s stumps and Salman Ahmad took his total of wickets so far in this tournament to 9.

Rutgers’ Mital Patel continued the USA onslaught. The Jersey Boy showed Bermuda who was the Boss by getting Joshua Gilbert caught behind by Steven Taylor (who used his pads to trap the ball), and bowling Kevin Fubler for a duck. Bermuda 27 for 5 wickets after 8 overs!

Then Shane Warne showed up or was it Tiger Bill O’Reilly?……actually it was another less well known leg spinner, Gurpreet Sandhu, who spun a magnificent spell of 5 wickets for 7 runs in 3.2 overs!

Salman Ahmad one of the leading wicket takers in the tournament. Photo courtesy of Nino DiLoreto

Sandhu’s wickets included the googly that deceived Damali Bell to get him lbw, and a superb caught and bowled of Easton . Bermuda all out for 50 runs in 17.2 overs and they would need a Leprechaun to help them win this one.

Clay Smith, writing in Bermuda’s Royal Gazette said, “one thing we have to realize is that our team is probably the youngest team in the tournament. This is really our Under-17s playing in the Under-19 age group. Simply put there is a cricket generation that we have lost, a gap that has been difficult to fill. Bermuda simply does not have a pool of quality cricketers between the ages of 18 and 20.”

I hope he’s right, as despite its long history of cricket Bermuda’s performance today was not good. One wonders though, why Bermuda has not been a part of the West Indies domestic competitions.

Smith went on to say, “When I look at the Under-19 team one thing that stands out is their inability to bat the full 50 overs. For the most part all teams appoint one player in the team to bat as long as possible. Looking at this current team of players, as gifted as they are, there are two major deficiencies. They are consistency and game knowledge or awareness.” That was a good summary of what the USA’s opponents so far have not done well, and what the USA lads have done well.

Under the threat of rain, and even through a drizzle the USA openers made easy work of making the 51 runs need to win with only Taylor being dropped with the score on 36, and won by 10 wickets in 13.5 and clinched a place in the ICC Global Qualifiers later this year in Ireland.

The problem is not that most of the teams in the  “ICC Americas” are very weak, the problem is that year after year they continue to be weak – fielding a team is not necessarily an indication of development of the game. Whilst commentators on cricket love to attack the 20 overs format as bad for the game, the reality is the lack of marketing and developmental strategies is the real problem.

The truth is the 20 over format, evident in the IPL, offers cricket players the best opportunities to earn money playing, which in turn will continue to encourage youth to play cricket, and support every format. Unless cricket offers comparable career opportunities to other sports it will fall behind.

Nevertheless despite playing weak opponents the USA team, like the University of Wisconsin Badgers in this past football season, has shown an ability to keep their feet on the throttle and complete the job without letting up. Captain Abhijit Joshi, like many of the USA batsmen have had the fortunate circumstance of not getting to bat because of the ease with which the team has won. However Joshi has led the team well, and new Coach Robin “Belichek” Singh has no doubt imparted a professional-like focus on “areas to be improved.”

 
 
 
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