By Peter Della Penna
The USACA Eastern Conference Tournament in Washington, D.C., which took
place from July 17-19, threw up a wild mix of on field performances and
off the field obstacles, combining the strange with the sublime over
the course of the weekend.
Speaking on the occasion, Gladstone Dainty, the President of USACA,
called the weekend a great success. “We had some good performances,”
said Dainty. “We achieved our objectives and we got an opportunity to
see a lot of good cricketers perform.”
Gladstone Dainty interview from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
New York Region was bowled out for 119 and lost by 5 wickets in
their first match on Saturday, but came back to win their final two
games by 9 wickets each to earn the tournament title. Steve Massiah,
the captain of the New York Region and the US National Team, finished
as the leading run scorer in the tournament with 151 runs in three
innings while only getting out once.
“I must thank my teammates for the wonderful support over the last
three days because we basically came from third place to number one and
that’s a great accomplishment,” said Massiah after New York defeated
the Atlantic Region on Sunday to win the title on run rate. New York
got major contributions from several players including Glen Hall, who
scored a century in the team’s victory over the Director’s XI on
Saturday. On Sunday, Kevin Darlington won the Man of the Match award
for his top order demolition of the Atlantic team, finishing with 3 for
16 as Atlantic was bowled out for 82. This followed up on his 4 for 35
against South East on Friday.
South East, who finished as the runner-up due to the tiebreaker of
net run rate, even though they had the same record as New York and beat
them on Friday, also had some brilliant performances. Captain Nasir
“Charlie” Javed finished as the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.
Timroy Allen took both Man of the Match awards for each South East
victory. On Friday against New York he took 4 for 28 and scored 13* to
finish the match while on Sunday he took one wicket and finished 39* as
part of a match-winning 88 run eighth wicket partnership with Anand
Tummala in South East’s victory over Director’s XI by 2 wickets.
Finishing second has left them hungry to come to Houston for the USACA
National Championship in October gunning for the title.
“We learned a few lessons here as a team and as an individual I did
learn a couple of lessons,” said Tummala, who finished with 3 wickets
and 113 runs, including one half-century in the tourney. “I think
cricket is a game which makes an individual make mistakes. The fewer
mistakes you make, the better cricketer you are. So I’ll try and
minimize the mistakes, what happened here. As a team I think we are
gelling really well and I’m sure we will be a force to be reckoned with
Atlantic went from being 2-0 and in the driver’s seat to win the
title on Sunday to a third place finish after the loss to New York.
However, Gowkaran Roopnarine’s 70 in 79 balls against South East was
one of the most scintillating innings of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the Director’s XI squad gave an opportunity for some of
the top youth players on the east coast to test themselves against some
of the nation’s best. The team, comprised mostly of Under-19 players,
put up some respectable efforts in the tournament against three teams
that had at least 11 current or former players on the US National Team
playing for the regional squads, including six for New York. This made
18-year old Azurdeen “Andy” Mohammed’s century against the New York
squad on Saturday all the more impressive.
“I thought we’ve played against some pretty decent players but young
Mohammed played a great innings yesterday,” said Massiah. “I mean for
someone his age, and I mean we have a pretty experienced attack, and he
batted brilliantly. I think his innings over the last three days stood
It wasn’t all fun and games though. Before and during the
tournament, there were definitely some issues which were a cause for
First was the fact that the North East Region pulled out of the
event only days before it was supposed to begin. According to an
official from USACA, the North East Region couldn’t come up with a
budget necessary to finance a team to send to Washington, D.C. As a
result, the Director’s XI squad was pulled together at the last minute
- an opportunity that the young boys utilized
The lunches for the first two days of the tournament were brought to
the grounds more than an hour after the scheduled innings/lunch break
for the matches. But according to the President Dainty, that didn’t
mean the lunches were late. “The lunch was supposed to be at four
o’clock. It got here around four o’clock. I don’t know that they had a
set time for lunch.”
When pressed further as to why the lunches were scheduled to be
ready from the caterers at 4 o’clock when 50 overs would be done at
around 2:30 p.m. for each match, Dainty maintained his position. “I
don’t know. I just brought the lunch when it’s supposed to be here. I
don’t know. So what you’re saying there is news to me. We had a pretty
good idea. We told the restaurant when we wanted it and I went and
picked it up and that’s it.”
Most of the players were left frustrated with the circumstances, not
to mention being out of energy. In the Atlantic vs. South East match on
Saturday, the innings break started at 3 p.m. while lunch arrived at
around 4:30. As a result, the first drinks break in the second innings
lasted about 20-25 minutes so the players could eat, even though an
official lunch break had already been taken in between innings.
South East was playing the tournament without the participation of any
players from the Georgia Supreme Cricket League (GSCL) even though a
team of the best players from the GSCL won the South East Region
Inter-League tournament. It remains to be seen if a full strength side
will be sent from the South East to the USACA National Championship in
The on field behavior of some of the teams was also questionable,
with prolonged and intimidating appeals directed towards the umpires
which did not go down well with several USACA representatives who were
present. The nadir was the five run penalty awarded to South East to
end the final match of the tournament against Director’s XI because of
wicketkeeper Carl Monroe’s use of “obscene language” despite several
warnings to stop, according to umpires Nelson Hutchinson and George
Richards. But most people agreed it was not the way a match should be
decided, including the players from South East.
“I’m sure the umpire must have given them a few warnings before he
took the decision of penalizing them with five runs,” said Tummala.
“That’s not the right way to decide the game, especially for a young
team, but I’m sure the quality of umpiring, what we’ve had in the last
few days has been exceptionally good… There must have been something
really bad out there which forced the umpires to take this kind of
decision. That’s not the right way, that’s not how this great game of
cricket should be decided, but discipline, there has to be a barometer
that has to be followed.”
The fan support got bigger over the course of the weekend, but
overall, it was not very high. However, that was not really of an
immediate concern to Dainty before the weekend began.
“To tell you the truth, our focus has really not been about
turnout,” said Dainty. “It’s about presenting the players with an
opportunity to play a higher level of cricket. In terms of the fans and
marketing for fans, I have no way of calculating or predicting because
that was not a focus in terms of putting this together. We want to have
tournaments where very good players are competing against each other.”
However, by the end of the weekend, Dainty was very hopeful that
when the overall quality of play rises in America, as it has been over
the past year with the organization of more competitive tournaments,
the fans will start to come.
“Well I think that good cricket, we need to have good cricket more
frequently,” said Dainty during a separate interview at the conclusion
of the tournament. “Cricket people are connoisseurs. They understand
the game. They know the game. If you present them with an inferior
product, it turns them off. But I think that over the past few days,
the word was spreading.”
Hopefully, the word is spreading to Minneapolis. The USACA Western
Conference Tournament will be featuring more of the best talent in the
United States. The South West, North West, Central West and Central
East will be competing with the top two finishers joining New York and
South East in Houston this October. A good blend of youth and
experience will be on hand, just as it was in Washington, D.C. Several
stars will be in attendance from the U-19 and senior levels and by
having the tournament in Minneapolis, USACA is hoping to spread the
game and bring awareness to cricket outside of the major centers of the
Western Conference like Chicago and Los Angeles.
The South West will feature Aditya Thyagarajan, who is a regular
member of the US National Team, while the Central West has selected
Ryan Corns in their squad. Corns was one of the stars of the U-19
National Tournament over Memorial Day weekend in Brooklyn, N.Y. and
continued to showcase his dazzling all-round skills for Team USA’s U-19
squad at the ICC Americas U-19 Regional Qualifier in Toronto at the
start of July.
The complete awards presentation ceremony of the USACA Eastern Conference Tournament 2009 from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.