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By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
This year’s ICC Americas U-17 tournament, scheduled to take place from July 8-15 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has been reclassified as the ICC Americas U-18 Match Play Camp between USA, Canada and Bermuda. According to an ICC Americas spokesperson, the tournament has been redesigned with the goal in mind to put the teams “in the best position to challenge for the one spot available” from the Americas that will move on to the 2014 ICC U-19 World Cup.
The age of eligible players for this tournament was raised one year from U-17 to U-18 to allow for all players eligible for the 2014 ICC U-19 World Cup qualification cycle to participate in this ICC Americas event. Players must be born on or after September 1, 1993 to be eligible to play for an Associate country at the 2014 ICC U-19 World Cup. This means that Amarnauth Persaud and Steven Taylor, members of the USA squad at the 2011 ICC U-19 World Cup Qualifier in Ireland, will be eligible to play for USA in July at this ICC Americas event as well as next year's ICC Americas U-19 Division One tournament. Should USA finish first in that event, they will advance to the 2014 ICC U-19 World Cup in the UAE.
The two Americas representatives at last year’s ICC U-19 World Cup Qualifier – USA and Canada – both failed to qualify for the ICC U-19 World Cup which begins this August in Australia. Overall, the standard of play from the Americas has dwindled in recent years. As recently as 2004, the USA was one of the highest rated Associate teams and qualified for the Champions Trophy in England. After ICC suspensions in 2005 and 2007, they were demoted from ICC World Cricket League Division Three to Division Five and have struggled to climb back to the upper echelon of Associates.
In 2007, the region had two representatives in the ICC World Cup with Bermuda and Canada taking part in the tournament played in the West Indies. Since then, Bermuda has dropped down to ICC World Cricket League Division Three. Argentina, which was in ICC World Cricket League Division Two in 2007, has now been relegated in four consecutive WCL tournaments to plummet to Division Six. They have lost 24 straight matches in the WCL beginning with the championship match at Division Three in 2007 through the fifth place match at Division Five in 2012.
Most recently, the Americas representatives at the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in the UAE – Canada (6th), USA (12th), Bermuda (13th) – had the worst average finishing position (10.33) of any of the five ICC Associate development regions. The best way to fix this is by beginning at the junior levels and so July’s tournament will have a bonus point structure that will reward teams for achieving certain milestones within a match. According to an ICC Americas spokesperson, “The points structure for the Match Play Camp is designed to force countries on focusing not only on the winning aspect but on developing the players’ attitude as to how to become better players.”
USA, Bermuda and Canada will each play each other twice in 50-over round-robin matches. Teams will receive 10 points for a win and five points for a no result. At the 15 over mark of each innings, one bonus point is available for either side. The bowling side can claim the bonus point if they have taken three wickets from their opponents. If the batting side is less than three wickets down after 15 overs, they will receive the bonus point.
Image (left) - Steven Taylor at 2011 USA U-19 trials in New York. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
For the team batting first, a bonus point can be claimed for batting out all 50 overs. If the side fielding first bowls the opposition out inside of 50 overs, they will claim the bonus point.
A bonus point is given for each partnership by a batting side that is 50 runs or more. Two bonus points are given to a batting side for each partnership that is 100 runs or more. A fielding side can claim one point for each run out resulting from a direct hit. Another bonus point is available for bowling a side out in the second innings (as opposed to winning the match by restricting the chasing team below the target without taking all 10 wickets).
Besides Taylor and Persaud, other players who may be in consideration to make the USA squad for the July event include a slew of players from the North West including Krish Goel, Arsh Buch, Roshan Varadarajan, Vibhav Altekar, Dave Parikh and Neil Tagare. Goel was invited to USA U-19 trials last year and was a member of the USA U-15 team in 2009. Varadarajan served as vice-captain to Taylor for the USA U-15 team in 2009 and captained the North West Region to the National Championship at the 2010 USACA-15 National Tournament. Buch was the leading run-scorer and tournament MVP at the USACA U-15 National Tournament in 2010.
Parikh captained the USA U-15 squad in Winnipeg last summer to a first place finish and was named Tournament MVP at the ICC Americas U-15 Northern Division Tournament. Altekar scored a double-hundred in the 2011 USACA U-15 National Tournament and was USA’s leading scorer with 140 runs at last summer’s ICC Americas U-15 Northern Division Tournament. Tagare had USA’s highest individual innings score at last summer’s ICC Americas U-15 Northern Division Tournament with 79 vs. Bermuda.
Image right - Dave Parikh, the MVP of the 2011 ICC Americas U-15 Northern Division Tournament in Winnipeg, Canada. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
Multiple cricketers from New York also stand an excellent chance of getting picked including Zahib Tariq, Randall Wilson and Troy Mars. They have the benefit of playing consistent age group cricket in New York’s Public Schools Athletic League high school cricket program throughout the spring. Tariq was one of the best all-round performers at the 2010 USACA U-15 National Tournament as well as a consistently solid performer for the New York Region U-19 team and FDR High School, one of two currently undefeated teams this season in the PSAL. Wilson scored two centuries in the 2011 USACA U-15 National Tournament as well as one in the 2010 USACA U-15 National Tournament and plays for John Adams HS, currently 8-1 this season in the PSAL. Depending on eligibility, Wilson’s John Adams HS teammate Troy Mars stands a solid chance as well. Mars has a high score of 177 and is currently third overall in runs for this season’s PSAL behind Persaud, who attends Martin Van Buren HS.
Several others on the USA junior level selection radar are Kwiese Edmondson of the South East Region, Shakeel Ahmad from the South West Region, Ryan Persaud from the Atlantic Region, Gordon Makin from the Central East Region and Rafeek Nazeer from the New York Region. Depending on eligibility, New York Region player Omar Afridi is also a top candidate after excelling in Scotland’s junior development program and representing the country at U-13 and U-15 levels prior to moving to the USA last year.
However, some players from the North West and New York might be squeezed out of getting a chance to even compete for a spot in the USA squad for the ICC Americas U-18 Match Play Camp. The USACA U-17 National Tournament was postponed from February and no announcement was ever made to reschedule the tournament. With the ICC Americas event just over six weeks away, it is highly unlikely that USACA will be able to hold a national tournament in enough time to help evaluate talent ahead of the ICC Americas tournament.
According to a source, USACA has discussed the possibility of asking each region to submit a list of four names to be invited to a national selection camp, which would hold up to 32 junior players. However, that would mean that regions which are historically weak at developing solid junior players, such as the Central West and North East, might take up spots at the expense of better players from regions which are historically strong at developing solid junior players, such as the North West and New York. Another issue is whether or not junior players from leagues who are not in good standing according to the USACA compliance audit from February will be invited to participate in any selection or evaluation process.