By Nitin Deo
Saturday, June 14th, 2003. Summer holidays for middle schools around Cupertino / San Jose area had just started. Also, 2003 World Cup was just over. That was the first year when we could watch those games on TV – even though the games started at 4 am, families and friends all around would gather at someone’s place and watch the games.
Anyway, on that Saturday, June 14th, there were a bunch of fathers with their 10 or 12-year old sons gathered that afternoon on a ground near Cupertino Library and played a game of cricket. Some of the kids could not hold the bat straight while some of the dads were playing after many years. There were still many wickets, many catches, and many boundaries – of course along with many wide-balls, dropped catches and run-outs.
Right after that friendly game, a few of us gathered at the residence of Hemant and Kinjal Buch – and that was the first day of California Cricket Academy (CCA).
Fast forward 10 years. Yesterday – Saturday, June 15th – at Dilworth Elementary School in Cupertino, there were two games played for ‘CCA Golden Era Cup’. First one was between Under-15 team of CCA Honahaars (i.e. Emerging Champions) and their dads. The second was between CCA Alumni and CCA reigning Champions. Over 120 people watched, played, ate, cheered and enjoyed full day of Cricket – the 2nd largest sport in the world – only behind soccer – from financial, viewership and worldwide participation perspective.
California Cricket Academy is the first cricket academy and youth league for children from 8 to 17 years in USA. Academy provides comprehensive cricket coaching in multiple cities in Northern California since July 2003. The Academy has state of the art equipment and facilities like world class bowling machine, Incrediballs, Kanga kits, 4 batting cages with different types of wickets and two match grounds with center pitches.
One of the world’s finest coaches – Mr. Ajit Tendulkar – has been coming all the way from India every year to coach the youth. Other coaches are professionally trained and impart high quality coaching to our students. For the past 10 years, we have trained over 500 young players from ages of 8 to 17.
In the first decade of CCA, with the relentless commitment and dedication of Hemant and Kinjal Buch – with support from Helen Grays of Keypoint Credit union, Zain Jeewanji of G1G insurance, Ram Varadrajan, Prem Suri, Mahesh Nihalani, Owen Graham, Jagan Jaganathan, Nitin Deo, Vijay and Priya Pradhan, Sundari Suresh and many others – there were many achievements worth mentioning here.
1. 3 CCA youths were selected for USA U-15 team in 2007, 5 in 2009 and 6 in 2011 and 3 in U-19 squad in 2013.
2. CCA has hosted National Tournaments starting in 2005 for 8 years straight. This included Canada as well as New York, Florida, Chicago and many other regional teams.
3. CCA Youth Team has won Championships at Super-25 Leagues 3 times in the past several years.
4. CCA has taken U-15 teams to India (Baroda, Ahmedabad and Mumbai) as well as England, Canada and West Indies.
5. Vijay Pradhan is USACA’s Youth Coordinator , Ajay Athavale has been USACAs regional Director, Hemant Buch has been Chairman of the USACA western region and chairman of the USACA youth committee and Prem Suri has been coach of USA U-15 and U-17 squads.
Coming back to the past weekend – it was kickoff for CCA’s 10th Year Anniversary Celebrations. This will be followed by – Corporate Tournament in August, Gala Dinner Event with a Special Guest in August, Garbaa Event in November and Award Night in December.
Highlights of the CCA Little Kids vs. Big Kids game played in the morning.
The big kids (Parents) won the toss and decided to bat first. They were left in disarray by young bowlers bowling perfect line and length at 18 in first 5 overs for 4 wickets. Then Tejas Talati and Mihir Jariwala stabilized the innings by scoring some excellent boundaries and running between the wickets. Then once again, Coach Dasharath – coaching the youngsters from the middle instead of sidelines – came in to bowl and got three very important wickets. The Parents’ team ended the innings with 91 all out in 20 overs. And, as expected, Mr. Extras was the highest scorer!
Then as the kids came in to bat, Manav, Pradeep, Tejas bowled some very good overs to keep them in check at less than 4 runs per over. Then once again, Coach Dasharath decided to come to bat to help out the Honahaars. But, he was set up by Tejas and had to lose his wicket cheaply. Then after Nitin got a couple of wickets with very few runs on the board still, the CCA Honahaars brought out their secret weapon – named Vibhav Altekar. He single-handedly demolished the Parents’ bowling attack – neither Manav, Ketan, Mihir or anyone else could stop the boundary machine – with 3 sixes, 5 fours – he brought them to 89 for 8 with 2 runs needed in the last over – which Shakti and Nikhil easily made. The highlight of the Parents’ team was IPL-standard wicket-keeping by Arvind – without him behind the wickets, it would have been all over in less than 10 overs. Some of the diving catches, wide-saves and guarding of the wickets were ideal examples for the kids to see how it is done!
Clash of the Titans: Highlights of CCA Alumni vs. CCA Champions
This was the highlight of Saturday’s celebrations. Even here we had lots of betting going on. Some people thought the Alumni will pulverize the Champions and some thought Champions will not even give a chance to their predecessors. The final betting was at $50 or Jamba Juice for the winning team! But, we can say this with most certainty that there was no fixing by any player or umpire and we didn’t need any towels hanging from behind!
CCA Alumni won the toss and decided to bat first. Rutvij and Anirudh had a very good start with openers set back to the pavilion. Sandeep and Raman amazed everyone with their running between the wickets and some nice punches through covers. Vinay was absolutely impressive with 5 sixes, 5 4’s and lots of fast runs – helping the Alumni put up 158 in 25 overs.
Then the Champions came to bat – with almost the same start as the Alumni, i.e. losing the openers cheaply – until once again Vibhav Altekar came in and started pummeling every ball to the boundary line with a 6 or 4. After losing one ball on the roof of a building, captain Varun made a crucial bowling change by bringing Mihir in and with his deceiving loopy balls he got 2 wickets in one over including Vibhav. The Alumni were back in the game. Then again, Anirudh and Rohan started taking 2’s and 3’s to bring the Champions close to the target. And, then, Vinay came in with his bulleting balls taking 2 wickets in a single over. The 2 catches taken were once again international standard catches – one by Varun and the other diving catch by Roshan. And one more time, the Alumni had a ray of hope. Then it came down to the last nail-biting over with 9 runs needed. The ball was in the hands of the most reliable bowler – Pranav. But, alas! After a boundary straight behind the keeper – Arul’s head – the Champions needed only 1 run in the last ball. That last ball was a perfect length ball when the batsman swung and missed as the ball went straight in keeper’s gloves. The Alumni started celebrating pre-maturely, while the smart Champions took the chance and ran the last run and made it!
The scene after this was the one to remember for another decade – the Champions came to the field and instead of shaking hands they gave a hug to each of the Alumni team members. This is the camaraderie and family that CCA has fostered.
As one of the umpires from our regions would say, ‘No team was a winner or loser today, but Cricket was the winner’!