By Peter Della Penna
Last week’s strong second place showing at the ICC Americas U-19
Regional Qualifier in Toronto was a huge step for Team USA. They are
now only one step away from making the U-19 World Cup next February in
New Zealand for the first time since 2006. Team USA finished 4-1 at the
Regional Qualifier with their only loss coming to tournament champion
Despite not participating in the 2008 U-19 World Cup, Team USA has big
expectations heading into the Global Qualifier that will take place in
Toronto from September 1-13. Team USA only needs to finish in the top
six of 10 teams to qualify for the U-19 World Cup, but that isn’t
enough for Coach Sew Shivnaraine.
“My goal is to win it and I guarantee that we are gonna win it,” said
Shivnaraine. “I think the boys are aware of what’s wrong, why we lost
against Canada. The Canadian players were getting into these guys
minds…. Now they realize that when they go back in September, they’re
not gonna play with their heads any more.” The coach isn’t the only one
brimming with confidence. His players are backing him up as well.
“I think if you look at the talent on the team, we should have come in
first actually,” said Henry Wardley who finished as the second highest
run scorer in the event behind the tournament MVP, Canada’s Hiral
Patel. “We were more talented than Canada. It’s just we choked on the
day and their tactics beat us.”
Team USA U-19 captain Shiva Vashishat echoed the sentiments of Coach
Shivnaraine, that there was a silver lining from the defeat to Canada.
“The loss against Canada helped us a lot because it was the first time
we faced pressure,” said Vashishat. “Overall, we all played together.
We’re gonna be a better team for the next time we come around for the
The team arrived in Canada on Wednesday July 1, five days before the
start of the tournament to get some crucial practice on turf wickets.
With the lack of turf wicket facilities available in the United States,
most club matches are played on matting or artificial wickets. As a
result, many of the players were going to be playing on turf for the
first time and the adjustment was going to be a key factor in the
success or failure of the team in the tournament. Team USA’s top order
batting was excellent, particularly the contributions from Wardley,
Azurdeen “Andy” Mohammed, Ryan Corns, Vashishat and Gregory Sewdial.
However, the middle and lower order struggled, particularly against
spin bowling. While Team USA overall performed admirably on the wickets
at Maple Leaf Cricket Club in King City, Ontario, Coach Shivnaraine
feels there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“I think they should have a lot of batting practice,” said Shivnaraine.
“I’ve noticed with spin bowling, they were having problems playing spin
bowling. Remember they’re not used to the turf. That’s one of the
reasons the batting didn’t explode as usual. If you play on the mat,
you’ll have a lot of guys make a lot of runs.”
The bowling however was superb, particularly the spin bowling. Yash
Shah led the way for Team USA with 8 wickets in four games and finished
as the third highest wicket taker in the tournament behind two other
spinners. Chris Douglas of Bermuda finished with 14 in five games and
was named the tournament’s Best Bowler. Orlando Stuart of the Bahamas
had 11 in five matches as well. According to the Tournament Director
Martin Vieira, the ICC Americas Regional Development Manager, the
weather was a factor in why spin bowling dominated the event.
“The weather was probably the biggest concern, not only during the
tournament but leading up to the tournament because it’s been a very
wet summer in Toronto,” said Vieira. “The groundspeople had a very
difficult job in getting the wickets prepared. If there was one
negative thing about it, it might be the wickets were probably on the
slow side. But overall I think the tournament went well.”
Shah’s performance was all the more impressive considering he wasn’t
even in the original 14 man squad. He was called in as a last minute
replacement for Saqib Saleem.
“I found out on Monday evening and my ticket was on Thursday,” said
Shah who had to join the team a day later than the rest of the squad.
“I had Yash in the team, but when the team selection committee only had
to select 14, then he was the odd man out,” said Shivnaraine. “But I
realized that in the 14, if one of the guys wasn’t going, Yash was the
next man in line because he really bowled well in the trials. Getting
him [to Toronto] was a godsend because his performance was so good. It
was unbelievable how he bowled for a little man.”
Shah was very well supported by Corns, Muhammad Asad Ghous, Mohammed
and Vashishat in the spin department, while the pacemen Naseer Jamali
and Salman Ahmad were solid if unspectacular with the new ball.
“Our batting is our strength,” said Shah. “We have batsmen to number
nine. Our bowling, especially the spin bowling also has been doing very
good and pacers are doing extremely well in the beginning overs as
well. Overall it’s a great team we have.”
The fielding was noteworthy as well. Wardley and vice-captain Sewdial
each had four catches. Sewdial was given the award for the tournament’s
Best Fielder. In the match against Bermuda, Sewdial pulled off three
stunning catches to help turn the tide in Team USA’s favor.
The team was led very well by captain Vashishat. While most of the
players were playing under him for the first time, the performance of
the team showed how fast he picked up on how to get the best out of his
“I knew he was a very talented captain,” said Wardley. “Whenever we
needed someone to perform, he would pretty much perform. Under pressure
situations, like in the field against Bermuda and against Canada, he
always made the right decisions.”
“Heading into the tournament, my main goal was to get to know everyone,
get to know their strengths, weaknesses and play together as a team,”
said Vashishat. Coach Shivnaraine was pleased with the way Vashishat
accomplished this goal.
“He’s a fantastic guy,” said Shivnaraine. “He listens. We make plans
before the game and he always listens to our plans and he works with
that. I don’t have to tell him from outside what to do. That’s the good
thing about Shiva. Shiva has a lot of experience captaining teams.”
One other thing that Coach Shivnaraine has spoken to the team about is
sportsmanship. Overall, Team USA demonstrated exemplary behavior on and
off the field. However, there were two incidents that the coach was not
happy with. In one match, a Team USA bowler attempted to run out the
batsman at the non-striker’s end after he had entered his delivery
stride. In a separate incident, a Team USA batsman openly questioned an
umpire’s decision by gesturing that he had hit the ball into the ground
before finally walking off the field.
“I discussed it at a meeting,” said Shivnaraine. “This is a gentleman’s
game. They shouldn’t do that…. They understand though. They apologized
which is good. They apologized to the manager, to the coach and to the
Away from all the action, the players had an awesome experience getting
to interact and make friends with the other teams at the hotel.
“It was a good experience, especially chatting with some Argentinean
guys and Bahaman guys and also Canadian guys, off the field we were all
happy,” said Shah. “I even gave my floppy hat to one of the Argentinean
guys. They really are nice kids. They are eager to learn that’s what
they are. They are eager to learn this game and I’m happy to see that.”
Many of the players on Team USA’s U-19 squad will be competing in
senior level USACA tournaments over the next few weeks. Ghous and Shah
have been selected to represent the Atlantic Region at the Eastern
Conference tournament in Washington, D.C. taking place from July 17-19.
Corns, who finished as the fourth highest run scorer in Toronto and had
two half-centuries in four matches before getting hurt, was recently
selected to represent the Central West Region for the Western
Conference tournament in Minneapolis, Minn., from July 31-August 2. The
experience against higher level competition will only help them in
their quest to advance to New Zealand in the U-19 World Cup.
“To be honest it would be a dream to appear in the World Cup,” said Shah.
From L-R bottom row: Team Physio Akhtar Masood "Chik" Syed, Abhijit
Joshi, Muhammad Asad Ghous, Henry Wardley, Shiva Vashishat, Regis
Burton, Yash Shah. From L-R top row standing: Coach Sew Shivnaraine,
Azurdeen "Andy" Mohammed, Naseer Jamali, Salman Ahmad, Ryan Corns,
Talha Zamir, Saami Siddiqui, Gregory Sewdial, Steven Taylor, Manager