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By Peter Della Penna
DreamCricket.com is wrapping up the year in United States Cricket by recognizing USA’s standout performers at the international level. The 2011 New Inning Foundation Junior Cricketer of the Year is Steven Taylor.
There were several age group cricketers who made noteworthy contributions while representing USA in 2011. Dave Parikh was named Tournament MVP after captaining the USA U-15 squad to a first place finish at the ICC Americas U-15 Northern Division Tournament in Winnipeg. Cameron Mirza scored a century and was named Tournament MVP at the ICC Americas U-19 Division One Tournament in Florida. Salman Ahmad finished with the most wickets for anyone representing the USA at any level this year.
However, Taylor’s exploits just couldn’t be ignored. When discussing dominant performances at the junior level, Taylor raised the bar in 2011. His 651 runs were nearly twice as many as the next closest teammate and junior player – Mirza’s 343 – and he scored them at an average of 43.40. In 18 innings, he notched two centuries and two-half centuries, including a USA U-19 record of 140 against Papua New Guinea.
Image (right) - Steven Taylor raises his bat after reaching 100 against Papua New Guinea at the 2011 ICC U-19 World Cup Qualifier in Ireland. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
At the ICC U-19 World Cup Qualifier in Ireland, USA came up just short of reaching the main draw with a seventh place finish. More often than not, the team’s success was dependent on Taylor, who claimed three Man of the Match awards during the event. His 455 runs in nine matches were tied for second overall at the qualifier. While Kenya’s Duncan Allan was named Player of the Tournament at the closing ceremony, Taylor received a special mention from the master of ceremonies for his stunning batting. It was clear his reputation had grown immensely over the course of the two weeks.
Taylor will still be able to participate in age group cricket through the year 2014. He will most likely be the foundation of USA’s squad that will attempt to qualify for the 2014 ICC U-19 World Cup, which is scheduled to be held in the UAE. Taylor was the USA U-15 captain in 2009 and has shown immense improvement since then. If he continues to progress in the same way, the USA U-19 side will have a strong chance of traveling to the UAE in 2014.
Yet, the 18-year-old stands a very good chance of playing on pitches in the UAE well before then. Taylor made his debut for the USA senior side in 2010 at the Pearls Cup in Florida against Jamaica. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he will get a recall in the near future to boost USA’s batting for the squad that will travel to the UAE in March for the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. Most of the other sides in the event would dream of having someone with Taylor’s talent at their disposal and the prospect of him representing the USA in that event is an exciting one.
In recognition of his achievement, Taylor will receive a plaque as well as a $250 gift certificate sponsored by the New Inning Foundation and DreamCricket.com.