By Linden Dodson
In Washington last summer something great occurred in a cricket tournament that will affect all involved for a life time. After two days of cricket in the Eastern Conference Tournament hosted by the Atlantic Region, a star studded New York Region team was reduced to third place behind Atlantic Region who had won both of their games and South East Region who had beaten New York and lost to Atlantic Region.
The team management, Linden Fraser (Coach), Steve Massiah (Captain) and myself (Manager) decided to forgo meeting with the team that Saturday evening scheduling instead a team meeting for 8.00 am on Sunday. Our last game, against Atlantic Region, the front runners, was scheduled for 10.00 am on Sunday.
The meeting was held at the hotel, right after breakfast, in the court yard, in the morning sunshine where we could find some privacy. At the meeting the team was apprised of the situation and the numbers were explained; we had worked out a chart and graph in which the most likely scenarios were extrapolated and this was communicated to the team; the boys were then challenged individually and as a team to go out and make New York proud.
The rest is history!
New York dismissed Atlantic region for 82 in 32 overs, then responded with 84 in 9.3 overs. By 1:30 pm on Sunday the game was over. New York catapulted from third place to first place in two hours of breathtaking cricket.
In Dubai this week Team USA found themselves in the same scenario in the Twenty 20 World Cup qualifiers. After two days of cricket they were in third place and needed to overcome a net run rate deficit of 2.6 runs per over to beat Afghanistan and qualify for the Super Four.
Afghanistan batted first (good from USA’s standpoint) and compiled 135 for 4 in their allotted 20 overs. USA now needed 136 in 14.5 overs to go to the next round. But they could only muster 106 for 7 when it was their turn at the wicket.
Is it possible that the team was not fired up to go out and achieve as was done in Washington?
In New York the sacking of both the Manager and Coach without explanation was well ventilated and it was brought out at that time that Massiah was part of the process in that removal. It should be now very clear to all that neither Massiah nor the administration valued the part that motivation and inspiration played in winning. Cricket was sacrificed at the altar of politics.
The Afghan medium pace bowler Hamid Hassan said in the post match interview that he enjoys looking at USA television and movies and particularly he liked Rocky and his team is the “Rocky” of International Cricket. Twenty two year old Hasan took eleven wickets in the tournament including three against USA.
The difference between the two teams is obvious - the Afghans had bigger dreams and younger legs they were able to take inspiration from an American folk hero to beat America.
The two teams that emerged from the ICC Twenty20 qualifiers and will participate in the ICC World Twenty20 this spring in the West Indies are Afghanistan and Ireland. For the record, let it be known that the average age of the Afghans is 22 years old; their youngest player is 17 years old and their captain is 25 years old. By the same token the average age of the Irelanders is 25 years old; their youngest player is 17 years old and their captain is 25 years old. Compare this to Team USA with 10 players over 30 years old including Dhaniram (9 runs from 5 innings) 43 years old.
After the tournament Americans in Dubai were left with the impression that in New York and USA cricket there are no big dreams and young legs.
USA cricketers, spectators and most stake-holders know otherwise and we must wash shame out of our eyes and demand nothing but the best from those who represent us on and off the field.