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By Peter Della Penna
The following is a preview for each of the squads headed to the USACA
Western Conference Tournament that will take place from September 17-19
in Los Angeles, Calif.
Central East – The Cinderella champions from 2009 will
need to make a similar miracle run to repeat as Western Conference
champs in 2010. Gone are captain Usman Shuja and leading run-scorer
Amit Kumar. However, last year’s leading wicket-taker in the
tournament, Akhil Pathan, is back again to lead the bowling attack.
Wicketkeeper Ashhar Mehdi will carry a lot of responsibility with the
bat while the team is once again looking to youth to make major
contributions as Fahad Babar and Abhijit Joshi will also have key roles
to play at the top of the batting order.
Central East squad – Shahid Malik (captain),
Asif Mehmood (vice-captain), Raheel Akhtar, Fahad Babar, Mansab Butt,
Pavan Chakravarthy, Maqsood Husain, Abhijit Joshi, Shehbaz Khan, Vamsi
Kotha, Tanveer Malik, Ashhar Mehdi, Sameer Munot, Akhil Pathan, Aditya
Central West – The team is loaded with talent and is
almost certain to turn around last year’s fortunes after a disastrous
0-3 performance in Minneapolis, which included a controversial forfeit
in their game against the champion Central East team. While Sushil
Nadkarni will be unavailable due to work commitments, there are a few
additions to make the team formidable.
Usman Shuja comes back to the Central West after spending a few years
away with Central East and Atlantic. A new face will open the batting
in Abbas Jafri. The teenager had the highest score at the U-19 Western
Conference in Los Angeles last month, 139 vs. South West, and he’ll
look to replicate that form playing on the same grounds against senior
“I think he has a very bright future for the U.S.,” said captain
Orlando Baker about Jafri. “He’s one that we’re going to have our eyes
on. He’s a good kid, he’s willing to learn and he’s a hard worker so
I’m just really looking forward to seeing him this week.”
Ryan Corns will look to play a bigger role this year after featuring in
only one match in the same tournament last year. Rahul Kukreti is also
back in the squad after the one-year suspension for his role in last
year’s forfeited match was overturned by USACA, according to Central
West manager Ahmed Jeddy.
Central West squad – Orlando Baker (captain), Majid
Rizvi (vice-captain), Ryan Corns, Jignesh Desai, Charan Gowda, Vivek
Inampudi, Abbas Jafri, Rahul Kukreti, Jermaine Lavine, Amir Nanji,
Rohit Ramkumar, Usman Shuja, Supratim Srinivasan, Radhakrishna
North West – Last year’s third place team has opted to go for
experience over youth. Not a single one of the four players from the
region who went to the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand were included in
this year’s senior squad. Saqib Saleem was selected, but has since been
replaced after he became unavailable due to school commitments.
One new face in the squad whose debut is eagerly anticipated is James
Crosthwaite, the younger brother of former Victoria wicket-keeper Adam
Crosthwaite. The bowling attack is the team’s biggest strength and is
led by vice-captain Saurabh Verma and Bilal Khan, both of whom
represented USA in 2010. They’ll get support from Samarth Shah and
Imran Khan, who took incredible figures of 9 for 5 at the North West
Region inter-league tournament earlier this year.
North West squad – Nauman Mustafa (captain),
Saurabh Verma (vice-captain), Vijay Beniwal, Rishi Bharadwaj, James
Crosthwaite, Shantanu Divekar, Ashwin Karuhatty, Bilal Khan, Imran
Khan, Samarth Shah, Ashok Singh, Sunny Singh, Srikanth Sundaragopalan,
South West – The team that finished second in
Minneapolis last year stands to be the tournament favorite this year on
their home turf. Although the squad is loaded with experience, they
also have an eye towards youth.
New to the squad this year are two former Ranji Trophy players from
Gujarat, Amit Sood and Timil Patel. Salman Ahmad has also been picked
for the South West senior squad for the first time. He recently scored
a century in the U-19 Western Conference Tournament at Woodley.
Ahmad and Hammad Shahid will both look to gain more positive experience
against senior members before making a push for a second consecutive
U-19 World Cup appearance for USA. Meanwhile, several other players
including Ravi Timbawala will be looking to reestablish their
credentials in the minds of USA selectors in an attempt to join South
West vice-captain Aditya Thyagarajan in the USA squad for ICC WCL
Division 3 in Hong Kong.
“I think our squad is really balanced,” said Thyagarajan. “I think all
four departments – fielding, batting, spin bowling, fast bowling – we
have a lot of depth. We’re accustomed to playing at the Woodley fields
and we’ll be definitely focused on coming back as champions.”
South West squad – Mehul Dave (captain), Aditya
Thyagarajan (vice-captain), Salman Ahmad, Tarun Bhoomireddy, Elmore
Hutchinson, Ritesh Kadu, Theo Mavrokefalos, Timil Patel, David Pieters,
Abhemanyu Rajp, Ali Shafi, Hammad Shahid, Amit Sood, Ravi Timbawala.
Friday, September 17 at 10 AM
Central East vs. Central West at Marder Field
North West vs. South West at Wong Field
Saturday, September 18 at 10 AM
Central East vs. North West at Marder Field
Central West vs. South West at Wong Field
Sunday, September 19 at 9 AM
Central East vs. South West at Marder Field
Central West vs. North West at Wong Field