2013 US Cricket Open
By Leonard Achaibar
Smart Choice – This team lived up to expectations of doing well and eventually winning the championship. From the time the squad was released, many felt that this was the team to beat, if they could.

Smart Choice dominated throughout the tournament and predictably found themselves in the finals. Steve Massiah provided excellent and quality leadership at the helm, having been the US national skipper for some time. He knows what it takes to win domestic T20 competitions, realizing having a big team is not all.

Smart Choice who won the 2013 US Cricket Open warm up before a game. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

The fact that Smart Choice defended 110 run totals, twice in six hours, in matches which could have gone either way spoke volumes of the plays and leadership of the Smart Choice XI. Steve Massiah has personally had a very successful run in the US Open since 2009.

Steve Massiah who led Smart Choice. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

In 2009 – Washington Tigers won led by Massiah
In 2010 – United Chargers won led by Massiah
In 2011 – Trinidad & Tobago won from United Chargers (Massiah led United Chargers)
In 2012 – Massiah’s DC Knightriders were eliminated in the Quarter-finals
In 2013 – Smart Choice wins led by Massiah

The Smart Choice line up was quite formidable, resembling the US national team with the likes of Nadkarni, Taylor, Perkins, Allen, Marshall, Ghous, Shuja, and may have benefitted from the Trinidad & Tobago XI not participating this year, as the T&T captain Babwah and Perkins joined in, on an already strong squad.

The management team led by Mr. Sakhi and his crew should be commended and congratulated for their efforts in winning the championship, this being their very first try at the US Open.

Miami Raptors: This team was worthy of their appearance in the Final 2, having played more enterprisingly than any other team in the tournament. Another star studded assembly of West Indian First-class players, led by top T20 player Lennox Cush, and including Derwin Christain, Esaun Crandon, Dave Mohamed, Sean Siloch, and local boys Surujbally and Ken Wright.

This was going to be their first match on the Central Broward Regional Park stadium track, for a team that likes to play shots from ball one. A track which was a batsman’s nightmare, with a pitch that was never to be trusted, with an uneven bounce and rolling balls when deliveries were pitched short. It is a pitch that over the years has typically been a very slow surface.

The beautifully lit Broward Stadium at night. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

Miami Raptors was seemingly in a reasonable position chasing 110, when at 83-5 off 16, and needing only 28 runs off 24 balls. Their key batsman Cush was still batting, but when he succumbed with the score at 93-7, the pressure of scoring at about nine runs per over became apparent, with the Raptors still needing 18 off 7 balls. Smart Choice seized the moment.

A disallowed controversial six may have impacted Miami Raptors’ momentum towards the end and soon after, it was all over bar the crying.

US Tigers: They badly needed to be in the Finals, having tied with three wins and three losses in six championship games this year. They got an excellent start, and topped the seeding as Number 1 going into the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ stage. It was the second time in two years at the US Open that the US Tigers had lost to the eventual champions. They were eliminated by T&T in 2012.

The lights lid up during the 2013 US Cricket Open at the Broward Stadium. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

The US Tigers fell short by seven runs, in their Semi-final against Smart Choice with a batting line-up heavily dependent on the diminutive Ricardo Powell, and with support from Irish national Niall McDonnell, Corns, Timbawala, Japen, Sunju and Adrian Ali. In the Semi-final when Powell departed with the score at 73-6, off 16, they needed some 38 runs from 4 overs.

Some say the US Tigers’ bowling attack was about the strongest in the series, with Timil, who is without a doubt the best spinner in the US, and a team that relied heavily on US based talent. On a pitch where runs were at a premium, the US Tigers should have made use of the opportunity of playing their 4th match in the stadium as ‘important home field advantage’  more than any other team in the Final 4, having earned the right to do so by virtue of the top seeded position.

Cigniti Punjab Lions: They had a good tournament until meeting the Miami Raptors in the last 4. It appeared that they had ‘graciously’ drawn through the top 16 and then onto the Quarter-final stage, and eventually to the Semi-finals.
The Cigniti Punjab Lions was beaten good and proper, as Cush and Cornwall made merry, racing to 147-4 in 14.4 overs.

It will be interesting to see how these four teams will fare the next time this or any other tournament of this kind is held, with the possible inclusion of a Trinidad & Tobago XI as the fifth team heading into the Quarter-final stage. Only time will tell!