By Orin Davidson
Group One will give new meaning to the description “Group of Death” when the round robin playoffs kickoff in the US Cricket Open Twenty20 showdown on Friday.
By far the toughest of the four groups, Group One has defending champions Washington Tigers, Florida Destroyers, Metropolitan Giants, who all have some of the strongest teams on paper among the United States-based squads. And when you add Team Bradford Lions, one of two overseas-based squads representing England, the road to the semifinals for the top finisher, could get treacherous.
In Washington Tigers, one of the most organized and accomplished teams in US domestic cricket, who are already strong with Usman Shuja, Imran Iwan and Dawood Ahmed and which will be boosted by the addition of former West Indies all-rounder Neil McGarrell, they will be difficult to beat even on a bad day.
Florida Destroyers is an offshoot of the exciting Bedessee Destroyers, and given the talents of Zaheer Saffie and Akeem Dodson – key components of the outstanding accomplishments of Destroyers in recent times, they will be strengthened by recent West Indies wicketkeeper/batsman Dinesh Ramdin and his Trinidad teammates Sherwin Ganga and Navin Stewart, who all helped their country place second in the prestigious IPL Champions League last year, you have a very formidable team. And to make matters worse for opponents, Florida Destroyers has drafted in fast rising Jamaica national team stars – the hard hitting Danza Hyatt who made a big impact for West Indies A against Pakistan A last month, Krishmar Santokie, the best fast bowler of the West Indies 2010 T20 championship and Shawn Findlay, another ex West Indies batsman.
Metropolitan Giants, winners of the powerful New York Inter League competition which has the core of Jamaica players in the Big Apple, will curse their luck finding itself locked in among the big guns early in the competition.
The presence of current India national T20 players Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Pathan, who could win matches singlehandidly, makes Boom Boom CFCA Tigers a feared opponent. The mere sight of the two stars in the dugout alone could break teams psychologically, and any squad on the opposite side will have to be mentally strong to compete against Boom Boom Tigers.
Team Bradford Lions is an unknown quantity but it would be foolish to disrespect these days, any T20 team coming out of England – the current World T20 champions.
It means the team to emerge from this group should be battle hardened enough to make it all the way to the final.
In terms of sentimental favorites it would be difficult separating New York Destroyers and United Chargers, two of the other three Big Apple teams in the competition, given the plethora of United States and West Indies stars they have imported.
Both are the top teams in Groups Two and Four and should they clash in the semifinals it would be a showdown of titanic proportions. New York Destroyers will have a score to settle with a number of the Chargers players who were part of the Washington Tigers lineup which beat them for the title last year.
As a result Destroyers has drafted in Guyana star all-rounder Lennox Cush and Trinidad big name players Darren Ganga, William Perkins, Dave Mohamed and Lendl Simmons. And the fact that the likes of US team regulars Kevin Darlington, Orlando Baker, the swashbuckling Andrew Gonsalves and former West Indies paceman Jermaine Lawson along with Barrington Bartley are included, it sets the stage for a mega showdown with a star-studded Chargers lineup. World class West Indian batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan is the biggest name in the competition and along with another global recognized all-rounder, Mahendra Nagamootoo, will carry Chargers’ challenge. The said stars will team up with the core of the United States national team including captain Steve Massiah, Sushil Nadkarnie, Tim Allen and Rashard Marshall who wrecked Destroyers’ hopes last year playing for Washington Tigers,.
In Group three Sixersports Daredevils should top Miami Thunder, its likely strongest opponent in the race to the final four.
And although popular teams will be eliminated in the first round, the US Cricket Open in 2010, owned and organized by Cricket Council USA, will field the finest collection ever of players in any domestic tournament.
Deservingly, the winning squad will take away the most lucrative cash prize in American competition.
Fans will have an early Christmas treat as a result.
Teams: Group One – Washington Tigers, Florida Destroyers, Metropolitan Giants, Boom Boom CFCA Royals and Team Bradford Lions. Group Two – New York Destroyers, Caribbean Stars, Washington CC Lankans , US Tigers and Pakistan Magic. Group Three – Sixersports Daredevils, Miami Thunder, US All Stars, SGCC Blues and MSCL Rebels. Group Four – United Chargers, New York Dodgers, Virginia Warriors, Boyd Wizards and 20 BDS Kings.