By Peter Della Penna
Walking around the grounds in Christchurch early this week as well as
the Queenstown Events Center on Friday, it was hard to hear anyone
giving USA a chance in this ICC U-19 World Cup. “You guys are unlucky.
You got drawn in the toughest group,” was a phrase heard early and
often, referring to the daunting matchups USA will face in Group B pool
play against Australia, South Africa and Ireland.
However, the glass half full mentality that is permeating throughout
Team USA’s camp says that despite the odds stacked against them, this
is a fantastic opportunity to take on the big boys and show the kind of
talent that exists in America.
Pic (Above): Team USA goes
through stretches before their final training session ahead of their
Group B clash with Australia. [Courtesy: Daniela Zaharia]
“Our main goal is obviously we’re going in to win,” said Shiva
Vashishat, USA U-19 captain. “But whether we win or lose, we are trying
to show the whole world that US cricket is growing and we want to show
that US cricket will be a threat in the future and hopefully we can get
some success in this tournament.”
Symbolism in how difficult this tournament will be for Team USA can be
found in looking at the distances they traveled to get to the World Cup
versus that of their first opponent on Friday, Australia. While the
American squad had to fly to San Francisco to then go on a 13-hour
flight across the Pacific Ocean to Auckland, Australia’s players
required just a short 3-hour trip across the Tasman Sea to reach New
Zealand. Still, Team USA is out to prove this is only one of many
obstacles that can be overcome in their path to glory and they are not
about to back down in Saturday’s fixture.
USA will be taking on a squad that features four players who have state
cricket experience, including three who have played first-class
cricket: captain Mitchell Marsh and opening bowlers Alister McDermott
and Josh Hazlewood. The standard of play that these Aussie teenagers
have seized upon is a big advantage preparation-wise heading into the
“Definitely the standard that the Shield cricket back home and the
one-day stuff and all that is of a very high standard, probably the
strongest domestic competition in the world nearly,” said Hazlewood.
“It’s developed my cricket. It’s quickly developed over the past couple
of months and improved a great deal so I think I’m in good stead for
the World Cup.” Hazlewood, who has been compared to Glenn McGrath in
the past, says that New South Wales teammate Stuart Clark has been very
helpful in giving tips on fine tuning his own line and length bowling.
Marsh and McDermott are two of several players on the squad that are
the offspring off some high profile Aussie cricketers and athletes.
Marsh’s dad Geoff played 50 Tests as a batsman for Australia while
McDermott’s dad Craig took 291 wickets in 70 Tests. Team USA’s best
claim to fame is that Regis Burton’s great uncle is Sir Vivian
Still, there are some positives heading into the match. First is the
fact that like USA, Australia went 1-1 in their warm-up games, beating
West Indies and losing to Bangladesh. There is also the fact that USA
can present a surprise element to Australia based on the fact that at
this age level, most teams have hardly seen each other and most
information about the opposition is limited.
“We don’t really know much,” said McDermott. “We haven’t really
researched much on any of the teams or anything. We’re just gonna go
out there to play our best cricket every single game and do the best
possible thing we can.”
Seeing the best cricket possible on Saturday would go hand in hand with
the backdrop of Queenstown and its international cricket facility,
which both sides agree is quite a sight to behold.
“I think it’s a lovely town, very scenic and obviously very touristy as
well,” said Hazlewood. “I’m very happy that we got drawn down here and
the ground just looks unreal.”
USA’s captain is hoping the scene will provide inspiration to pull off a big upset.
“This is on everyone’s behalf that our whole team thinks this is the
most beautiful ground that we’ve ever seen, probably will ever play
at,” said Vashishat. “The mountains, the grounds, the environment here,
everything is just so beautiful and perfect so we’re gonna try to make
the most of this.”