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[Source: CLNJ-Youth Press Release]
Cricket League of New Jersey’s Youth Program celebrated its first annual awards on December 8, 2012. Indian-American tennis players Shikha Uberoi and Neha Uberoi, both of whom combined studies at Princeton University with their professional tennis careers, were the guests of honor.
Pic: Princetonian pro-tennis players Shikha Uberoi (L) and Neha Uberoi (R) speak about their experiences on the tour.
The event held at DreamCricket’s Indoor Nets began with a presentation by CLNJ’s Youth Coordinator - Venu Palaparthi. Palaparthi reminded the audience about a meeting held on December 5, 2010 when the program was first conceived.
The goal of the CLNJ Youth Program was to create a fair, fun, competitive age-group cricket league in New Jersey, which provided a ladder to representative cricket. In order to be sustainable, it was recognized that the cricket program must be local to NJ, must be financially self-sufficient, and needed the support of local adult leagues.
In 2012, that vision became a reality with the support of CLNJ, the area’s largest league, the program’s two coaches - Earl Daley and Damion Morgan, and through active volunteering by parents. Following its adoption by CLNJ in 2012, the youth program has had access to the best grounds in New Jersey and is part of a 501c(7) non-profit organization. The program is also affiliated to the United States Youth Cricket Association (USYCA).
The program now has two U-13 teams and a Colts team that plays in the adult league under the supervision of the coach. It is fully funded through contributions by the participants and as a league program, it also obtains associated with clubs. During 2012, the boys played in 26 scheduled matches in addition to a a number of friendly matches. During 2012, the CLNJ boys were visited by two Test greats - Sunil Gavaskar and Syed Kirmani. The program also received a signed bat and best wishes from Indian captain MS Dhoni and participated in an interactive session with VVS Laxman.
Pic: Coach Earl Daley speaks about the Colts program.
Nearly all of the junior players in the Under-13 and Colts programs are US born. The Colts roster also has several adult chaperone players and included on that list are two US-born cricketers who were introduced to the game during their travels overseas - Peter Della Penna, a reporter for DreamCricket and ESPN, and Stephen Rooke, the author of the USCricketer.com blog.
Following the introductory presentation on the league, the guests of honor - Shikha and Neha Uberoi - addressed the audience. Shikha is only the second female player of Indian origin to feature and win a round at a Grand Slam tournament, when she entered the second round of the US Open in 2004. Neha followed in her sister’s footsteps by entering Round 2 of US Open doubles the following year.
Academically, Shikha began her freshman year in Princeton in 2001 and Neha joined Princeton two years later, when she was only 16. After a few years of professional tennis, the sisters returned to Princeton to finish their education.
The Uberoi sisters spoke of the importance of the balance between sports and academics and emphasized the role of communication between kids and parents. “We will pretend to be Bollywood stars in order to make the presentation entertaining,” Neha joked as she and her sister proceeded to enact everyday scenes from “desi” households. They connected with the audience instantly and there was appreciative laughter all around. Reflecting on their own careers, the Uberoi sisters told the kids that every failure must be looked at positively and as a path to success. Speaking about the importance of planning and time management, they noted that the average teenager attention span rarely exceeds 40 minutes, which meant that lesson plans had to be about 20 minutes long in order to be effective.
CCA and DreamCricket alumnus Karteek Kankanala spoke to the kids about his experiences playing club cricket in England. Kankanala, who scored eight 50s and 1 century during 2012 attributed his success to his father's constant encouragement and support as well as coaching received at CCA in Cupertino and at DreamCricket's specialist camps conducted by Ian Pont in New Jersey.
Pic: Coach Damion Morgan receives a memento in recognition of his U-13 initiative.
Awards were presented to top performers in the U-15 and U-13 categories as well as to all participants. At the U-15 level, Shekhar Kripalani was both the MVP and the Best Batsman. Richard Ramrattan won the Best Bowler award and Raymond Ramrattan won the Best Fielder award. At the U-13 level, Chaitanya Parwal was the MVP, Saiteja Mukkamalla was the Best Batsman, Chirag Ballani was the Best Bowler and Yash Parikh was the Best Fielder. Coaches Daley and Morgan were also recognized for their efforts.
Outlining the plans for the future, Pragnesh Patel, President of CLNJ, said: “In 2013, the league plans to expand the number of grounds available for youth cricket so that more junior cricketers have access to our cricket facilities.” Palaparthi said that a process was being implemented wherein Colts players would be drafted into the various clubs.
Simultaneously, the more skilled U-13 players would be provided an opportunity to move up to the Colts.
Pic: U-13 kids absorbed by the skits presented by the Uberoi sisters
Delkash Shahriarian of the USA Women’s team promised continue her efforts to create a successful girls cricket program. Stephen Rooke, who could not attend due to prior commitments, announced plans to conduct a fielding clinic ahead of the 2013 season.
Following an impromptu net session and a pizza dinner, the evening ended with a screening of cricket themed movie - Ferrari ki Sawaari.
[Photo credits: Smita and Sudhir Parwal]