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By Peter Della Penna
The USACA 2010 Eastern and Western Conference Tournaments that took place in Los Angeles, Calif., and Atlanta, Ga., from September 17-19 gave an opportunity for many players around the country to present their case for inclusion in USA’s squad for ICC World Cricket League Division 3 in Hong Kong. The best performers are being recognized by this writer in an All-Tournament Team.
The All-Tournament Team is a combined list of players from the Eastern and Western Conference Tournaments. The list has been compiled based on three days of cricket witnessed by the author in Atlanta as well as information obtained from multiple sources about performances that took place in Los Angeles.
Pic (Right): South West were Western Conference champions by a mile. [Courtesy: Theo Mavro]
When compiling the list, several factors were taken into consideration. First and foremost are the statistical achievements of the players involved since they are the most tangible proof of a player’s contributions to their team. As such, there will be players left off the team who may be viewed as more talented than players who made the team, but just did not perform that well over the three days.
Second, when choices between players with similar stats became close, more weight was given to performances against better opponents. For example, a player who scored runs or took wickets in a match against New York or South West, who finished in first place in their respective conference, was deemed to have turned in a more impressive performance compared to runs or wickets against the last place team in their conference.
Third, these two factors are combined with what I saw with my own eyes and from information obtained from sources in matches where I was not present. This was not just the runs or wickets they took, but how they did it. It includes match situations and technique exhibited, as well as the talent they had surrounding them which could have affected how they performed.
Finally, I tried to select a balanced team. If the five highest wicket takers in the tournament turned out to be spinners, not all five would stand a chance of making the team as there needs to be pace bowlers to support them. Likewise, if the four highest scorers in the tournament were opening batsmen, only two of them can be slotted into a role on an All-Tournament Team as an opener.
1. Nauman Mustafa (wicketkeeper), North West
– A classy right-hander, Mustafa (pictured right) stood head and shoulders above a competitive field of wicketkeeper-batsmen by notching 102 against the defending Western Conference champion Central East team. He finished first among all wicketkeepers and was tied for fifth overall in runs for the weekend.
2. Glen Hall, New York – Hall was the MVP of the Eastern Conference for being the catalyst to New York’s success. New York won the toss and batted first in each game with Hall providing the platform to achieve victory on all three days. He finished as the top run scorer in Atlanta.
3. Ryan Corns, Central West
– The 20-year-old brought up the highest score of the weekend in style, scoring 119 in only 77 balls against North West. The pressure was on to perform heading into the final day and Corns (pictured left) delivered in emphatic fashion. He also took 3 for 81 in 27.5 overs of left arm orthodox-spin.
4. James Crosthwaite, North West – No bowling attack was spared from the batting brilliance of Crosthwaite, who arrived in the USA this year from Australia and plays his club cricket for Microsoft CC in Seattle. Crosthwaite scored a half-century in each game and finished as the leading run scorer on the weekend with 247 runs. He won’t be eligible to play for America for another few years, but could be a prolific performer for USA if he sticks around long enough to qualify.
5. Aditya Thyagarajan, South West – The linchpin of any middle order he plays in, Thyagarajan scored 84 runs in two innings without being dismissed on his home turf in Los Angeles. True to form, he took his team out of trouble against Central West to seal a 4-wicket win. South West was 76 for 5 chasing 167, but Thyagarajan scored 62 not out at number five to take his team across the line.
6. Durale Forest, Atlantic – A solid all-rounder, Forest was Man of the Match in his team’s victory over South East with 46 not out and nearly took Atlantic to a win over New York with 62 when he was last man out in a 17-run loss. He also took two wickets bowling tidy fast-medium pace. He tied for fifth in runs on the weekend and could have scored many more were it not for his appalling level of fitness.
7. Neil McGarrell (vice-captain), Atlantic
– The cagey left arm spinner (pictured at right) showed off his vast experience during the weekend with a very economical display, taking 7 wickets at under 10 runs per wicket with an economy under three runs per over to receive the Best Bowler award in Atlanta. He also contributed 49 runs in two innings down the order.
8. Mehul Dave (captain), South West
– The Tournament MVP in Los Angeles (pictured left) put the clamps on the opposition in the middle overs with his medium pace and was a big reason why South West allowed the fewest runs in Los Angeles. North West’s 170, which included 73 from Crosthwaite, was the highest total scored against South West. Dave turned in figures of 5 for 51 in 22.2 overs during the weekend.
9. Adrian Gordon, New York – Gordon edges out North East’s Srinath Rajagopalan to take one of the fast bowling slots in the starting XI. Each player had an identical average and economy rate, but Gordon was able to bowl his team to victory with a golden five-wicket haul, taking four of the last five wickets to fall in a dramatic 17-run win over Atlantic. He finished with six wickets on the weekend for the Eastern Conference champions.
10. Abhemanyu Rajp, South West
– The former 2006 U-19 World Cup vice-captain for USA (pictured right) turned in a record setting performance against Central East, taking 7 for 35 with his off-spinners. He finished with the most wickets on the weekend, claiming nine scalps for the Western Conference champions. Despite his talent, it’ll be difficult for him to break into the USA squad at the moment with a glut of off-spinners currently in the team.
11. Kevin Darlington, New York – The ever reliable Darlington looked nearly untouchable in the two games he played. He imposed himself on South East with 5 for 14, ending their chase before it had a chance to get started. His average of 5.83 runs per wicket is by far the best of any bowler in the top 10 for wicket takers on the weekend, as is his 2.33 economy rate. He is the total package for a limited overs pace bowler.
12th Man: Srinath Rajagopalan, North East – One of the few bright spots on the only winless team at either tournament, Rajagopalan nearly took his team to victory with 4 for 21 against Atlantic. He finished with eight wickets on the weekend, the most for any pace bowler, but also gave up the most runs of anyone in the top 10 for wicket takers and was tied for the worst economy rate.
13th Man: Asif Mehmood Khan, Central East – When batsmen from the other three teams in the Western Conference were surveyed for the most impressive and difficult bowler they faced, without hesitation the answer every time was Mehmood. In a 3-run win over Central West, he bowled 10 overs, including 4 maidens, on his way to taking 3 for 12 as Central West defended 172. In that game, he claimed the key wicket of Corns and then the high run scorer Rahul Kukreti to spark Central West’s collapse. In all, he took five wickets in three games at an economy of 2.90 runs per over.
14th Man: Hussain Haidar, South East – This mystery spinner has a leg-spinner’s action but bowls off-spin. Batsmen have an extremely difficult time reading him and it results in plenty of wickets. He took seven in three games to tie for third on the weekend. However, his fitness needs to be addressed before he can seriously be considered for higher honors.
Eastern Conference U-19 Player for the Future: Zain Ali Syed, South East – The MVP of last month’s U-19 Eastern Conference Tournament in Connecticut, Syed only played one match in Atlanta, but made a huge impression by top scoring for his team with 34 runs against tournament champion New York. He showed no fear in the face of the best pace attack in the tournament and comfortably stroked the ball around the ground right from his first delivery. After the match, USA captain Steve Massiah spent several minutes talking to him to give him some more tips.
Western Conference U-19 Player for the Future: Abbas Jafri, Central West – Jafri turned in the highest score at the U-19 Western Conference in Los Angeles last month with 139 against South West. He had a shaky start in the senior tournament this past weekend with a duck against Central East, but against the tournament champion South West squad, he scored 40 and earned high praise from several members of the opposition.
Top 5 Players in Contention for Selection to USA Senior Team
1. Ryan Corns – The future is now. Corns didn’t bang down the selection door this weekend, he took a flamethrower to it when he torched North West’s bowling attack on Sunday.
2. Asif Mehmood Khan – For the second year in a row, he has had a very solid showing in the Western Conference and has emerged as a top candidate to fill a left arm spinner’s role that the team is desperately seeking.
3. Nauman Mustafa – USA could use an experienced keeper-batsman as insurance in case Carl Wright’s dip in form continues.
4. Neil McGarrell – The former Guyana captain with Test match experience playing for the West Indies has age counting against him, but could be considered as a left arm spinner if Mehmood is not up to scratch.
5. Glen Hall – He toured with USA in February, but only made it onto the field as a substitute fielder. However, his solid form could see him getting another opportunity.
1. A. Rajp, South West, RA off-spin – 9 for 96 in 27 overs with 4 maidens
2. S. Rajagopalan, North East, RA medium – 8 for 131 in 26.2 overs with 1 maiden
T3. N. McGarrell, Atlantic, LA orthodox-spin – 7 for 60 in 22.5 overs with 2 maidens
T3. H. Haidar, South East, RA off-spin – 7 for 90 in 28 overs with 3 maidens
T3. T. Patel, South West, RA leg-spin – 7 for 119 in 29 overs with 2 maidens
T6. K. Darlington, New York, RA fast-medium – 6 for 35 in 15 overs with 3 maidens
T6. D. Thomas, New York, RA fast-medium – 6 for 76 in 24 overs with 5 maidens
T6. N. Javed, South East, RA leg-spin – 6 for 94 in 28 overs with 1 maiden
T6. A. Gordon, New York, RA fast – 6 for 107 in 21.3 overs with no maidens
T6. S. Verma, North West, RA leg-spin – 6 for 122 in 30 overs with 3 maidens
A. Rajp, South West – 7 for 35 vs. Central East
K. Darlington, New York – 5 for 14 vs. South East
A. Gordon, New York – 5 for 43 vs. Atlantic
1. J. Crosthwaite, North West – 247 runs in three innings, 82.33 AVG, three 50s
2. G. Hall, New York – 171 runs in three innings, 57.00 AVG, two 50s
3. R. Corns, Central West – 152 runs in three innings, 50.67 AVG, one 100
4. F. Ullah, South East – 127 runs in three innings, 42.33 AVG, one 50
T5. N. Mustafa, North West – 126 runs in three innings, 42.00 AVG, one 100
T5. D. Forest, Atlantic – 126 runs in three innings, 63.00 AVG, one 50
7. J. Desai, Central West – 104 in three innings, 52.00 AVG, one 50
8. R. Singh, South West – 92 runs in two innings, 92.00 AVG, one 50
T9. A. Mehdi, Central East – 89 runs in three innings, 29.67 AVG, zero 50s
T9. A. Mishra, Atlantic – 89 runs in three innings, 29.67 AVG, zero 50s
R. Corns, Central West – 119 vs. North West
N. Mustafa, North West – 102 vs. Central East
J. Crosthwaite, North West – 87 vs. Central East; 87 vs. Central West; 73 vs. South West
F. Ullah, South East – 80 vs. North East
R. Singh, South West – 79 not out vs. Central East
S. Malik, Central East – 71 not out vs. Central West
G. Hall, New York – 68 vs. Atlantic; 54 vs. South East
R. Bhardwaj, North West – 66 vs. Central West
J. Patel, South East – 64 vs. Atlantic
Aditya Thyagarajan, South West – 62 not out vs. Central West
D. Forest, Atlantic – 62 vs. New York
J. Desai, Central West – 60 vs. South West
Arjun Thyagarajan, North West – 58 not out vs. Central East
R. Kukreti, Central West – 54 vs. Central East
J. Singh, North East – 54 vs. Atlantic
S. Rajagopalan, North East – 52 not out vs. South East
[Views expressed in the article are those of the author. These are not the official views of USACA or its selectors.
If you have differing views or would like to name your own Tournament XI, you can do so by visiting our comments section or writing to us at email@example.com.
All pictures except Neil McGarrell and Nauman Mustafa are courtesy of Dionisius Mavrokefalos. Nauman Mustafa's picture courtesy of the player.]