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From the County Gazette, May 12:
WEST HILLS – Yesterday, the West Hills Youth Cricket League hosted their 10th annual Open House Day, as cricket academies, indoor facilities and clubs gathered in stalls and tents around the fields to promote themselves to the hundreds of players and parents in attendance.
The West Hills Youth Cricket League, in its 12th year of operation as an introductory-level “softball” league, now boasts over 700 players in five separate age groupings. The WHYCL also sponsors a number of travel teams that compete in the county softball league. Its president, Bilal Joshi, beamed with pride as he discussed the league’s accomplishments.
“Cricket has really exploded in this area, just as it has across America,” Joshi said. “These days we can barely accommodate the number of kids who want to play for us. I can remember a time not too long ago when what we accomplish every year was considered impossible by some.” Laughing, Joshi added, “Of course, there was also a time when the idea of the USA defeating England in an international match was considered a fantasy.”
For many local cricket interests, the WHYCL Open House is a “can’t miss” event. Keith Sherry, of the West Hills Cricket Academy, has been there for every one, and is one of the league’s major sponsors. He considers the WHYCL one of the primary reasons his academy has tripled in size in the last four years.
“There’s no way I wouldn’t be here; not a chance,” Sherry said. “Not only is it a lot of fun, but we get to meet hundreds of great young cricketers and their families, and we get to tell them about WHCA, and what it has to offer them. Every year we get 15-20 new players from the West Hills Youth League, and they’re always wonderful kids. We love it.”
The West Hills Cricket Club, whose players are active in coaching the league’s teams, was also well represented at the Open House. The club is already very familiar to many of the young players, as it works closely with their neighborhood schools to promote the playing of cricket.
Club Captain Navdeep Patel said, “A lot of our young players started here, which is why we now have an A, B and C team. Many of them go right from a WHYCL team to one of our youth teams, which have become sort of like minor-league farm teams for us.” Patel added, “Our involvement with the league and the schools just makes so much sense from a recruitment standpoint. How could we not be here?”
Joshi credits the WHYCL’s dramatic growth with convincing the county to commit to the construction of five new turf cricket pitches over the next three years. He expects that once these are operational, the county will become a magnet for cricket tournaments and festivals, which will bring in much-needed revenue for organizers and the county alike.
“The Council resisted the pressure for a little while, but now, with all of the kids playing cricket, and the number of parents involved in the game, they had to admit that building the pitches was just smart politics.” Joshi said, “The crazy thing is, I expect that within five years, they’ll have to add another five just to keep up with the demand.”
A major topic of conversation at the Open House was last week’s debut performance of WHYCL alumnus Nicholas George against England, where he tore through the middle and lower order to take 5 for 36, and then produced a very respectable run total of 39 off 46 balls in USA’s convincing win.
“We’re all so proud of Nick,” Angie Johnson, WHYCL’s secretary said. “It was pretty clear early on that he was going to be good, but honestly, there was no way of knowing he would be this good, this fast. It was only a couple of years ago he was making his first start on the under-19 team, and now all this. It’s just very exciting to watch.”
One thing is certain, the WHYCL, enjoying the great support it does from its academies, indoor facilities and clubs, will no doubt continue to produce many Nick Georges in the coming years, both to their credit and USA cricket’s pleasure. In the words of Angie Johnson, “It’s just very exciting to watch.”
No doubt by now you must realize that the above “news article” is purely a work of this writer’s imagination. It is written however, not to entertain, but to demonstrate what is within our reach if we plan for the long-term and work together to execute that plan.
The fictitious West Hills Youth Cricket League clearly does a great job introducing and then nurturing young cricketers, but it can only bring those children to a certain point. This is where its partners (academies, indoor facilities and clubs) have critical roles to play in the next stages of the young cricketers’ development, as they take that raw talent and turn it into a continuing supply of highly trained hardball players.
It is easy to imagine the route to the top that young Nicholas George must have taken: first playing softball at WHYCL, and then, having distinguished himself there, he probably was one of the kids who went straight to the West Hills Academy, where he learned the skills that he may have later deployed for the West Hills Cricket Club. Before long, he was on USACA’s U-19 team, and then, soon after, taking wickets against England on a sunny afternoon in early May.
In this scenario, it is also interesting to notice that with a large base of young cricketers in existence, the county has either awoken to the need for good cricket pitches, or succumbed to the political pressure exerted by the parents, depending on how cynically you view government. Regardless, the cricket players of this county will now reap the rewards.
The point of this exercise is to both test your faith in the United States, and to illuminate the path to a great future. It is my hope that you will join the United States Youth Cricket Association as we work with youth organizations, academies, training facilities and clubs to make certain that stories like this become commonplace in America, and that players like young Nicholas George become familiar figures on Team USA.