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A team comprising Under 14 boys from the California Cricket Association and US Cricket Academy, the USA Select U-14, completed a successful tour of Gujarat, India winning 5 out of 8 games against district level teams. Whilst there, the boys had an opportunity to watch an exciting T20 game between India and Pakistan from the upper pavilion.
Pic (Right): The boys at the GMDC stadium in Motera
After almost three days of travel from the US, the team finally arrived in Rajkot for their first game against Saurashtra U-14. As there was no opportunity for pre-tour preparation, the boys used the first game as a practice game giving all of their bowlers a shot and figuring out which of the batsmen might need some extra time to adjust to the new conditions. Saurashtra’s top order was in top gear with Ravi Nimavat top scoring with 45 off 56 and Kevin 34 off 42 before both succumbed to Mohak Buch, who took 6 for 35 in his 7 overs. Vivek Narayan also bowled very impressively for 2 for 23 in his 8 overs. The Select U-14 boys used all of nine bowlers and Saurashtra ended up with a competitive 173 for 9 in their 40 overs. In their reply, the Select U-14 lost wickets at regular intervals and ended with 102 in 35 overs. Akhil Ghirnikar's 33 from 36 balls (four fours) and the last wicket partnership between Shopnavo and Samet were the only bright spots.
Game 1 result: Saurashtra U-14 (173 for 9 in 40 overs) defeated USA Select U-14 (102 all out in 35 overs).
The US team was determined to do better in their second game. The visitors won the toss and elected to bat this time determined to last their 40 overs. The boys had some decent partnerships at the top-order including two fifty run partnerships for the 3rd and 4th wicket between Maulin and Nandan and then Nandan and Mohak respectively. Maulin finished with 46 off 71 balls and Nandan helped himself to a well compiled 41 off 51 balls. With the score reaching 172 for 4 in the 35th over, a score of 200 appeared an easy goal. However, the team imploded spectacularly ending with 180 all out in 38 overs, five needless run outs contributing to the anticlimactic finish.
For a while, Saurashtra seemed to have their chase under control. But then Mohak Buch struck with two blows in one over to draw first blood trapping Arjun LBW and then getting captain Daivat stumped off a wide ball courtesy some smart work behind the stumps by Nandan. Following that, Akhil Ghirnikar trapped Pranav leg before in the first ball of his very next over. Having lost 3 quick wickets, Saurashtra recovered to 114 for 5 in 22nd over when Kevin was caught by Akhil ending a well compiled inning of 68 from 62 balls. Mohak then got rid of Jairaj in the 26th over caught by Gauranshu Sharma and in his very next over, he claimed two wickets off consecutive deliveries to leave the hosts at 132 for 8 with almost fifty runs still to get. Vivek Narayan finished off the innings in the 37th over and the US team prevailed by a comfortable margin of 27 runs to square the series in Saurashtra.
Game 2 result: USA Select U-14 (180 all out in 38 overs) defeated Saurashtra U-14 (153 all out).
Arriving in Ahmedabad, the boys were greeted by a red soil wicket for the first time on this tour. The boys opted to bat and were in trouble right away as they were reduced to 25 for 3 in the sixth over. Vivek Narayan starred in two very productive partnerships: 37 runs with Maulin for the 4th wicket and then 55 runs with NJ teammate Gauranshu Sharma for the sixth. Vivek reached a well-deserved fifty (51 off 85) in the process. Gauranshu and Jwal Shelat stayed till the end and the US managed to put up 153 for 6 in their 40 overs.
The Ahmedabad boys easily overhauled the US team’s score with more than five overs to spare for the loss of just five wickets.
Game 3 result: USA Select U-14 (153 for 6 in 40 overs) lost to Ahmedabad U-14 by 5 wickets
Despite the loss to Ahmedabad, Vivek's half century and the fact that they lasted the full 40 overs were both indicative of improvement. They continued to improve and won their next two games against Baroda and Ahmedabad Cricket Academy, match reports for which are not available.
For Game 6, the Select U-14 arrived in Anand. Their hosts were the Gujarat inter-district champions. After losing early wickets, Akhil and Gauranshu took the score from 53 for 4 to 124 for 5, adding 71 invaluable runs in just 78 balls. Bad shots and run outs once again came back to haunt the team and the score read 161 for 9 before Samet and Shopnavo, the last pair, once again rescued the side with 17 valuable runs to take the US to a respectable 178. Had it not been for the generous 62 extras, the boys would have ended up with a much lower total.
Needing 179, Anand began steadily with Aditya Patel scoring at a brisk pace (49 off 39 with 8 fours). With the score reading 121 for 3, Vivek and Parth gradually tightened the noose bringing the hosts to 163 for 5 in the 39th over. Parth took some quick wickets leaving Anand 15 short of victory in the final over. Once Kirtan, whose 65 came off 130 balls, fell to Gaurav, it was too much for the last pair to get the remaining twelve runs. This was easily the tightest game of the series with fortunes see-sawing, some great batting and most importantly some great catches to swing fortunes from one side to another. This win gave the US side their third victory on the trot and certainly gave them a lot of confidence.
The next game was at the famed Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera where some of the boys had previously watched India and Pakistan battle it out in a T20. The boys cherished this opportunity of playing on this hallowed ground. The Ahmedabad boys sent down fourteen maidens off the 39 they bowled. Yash Doshi bowled 8-6-2-2 and his accuracy, flight, dip and turn were very impressive. Little wonder then that the Select U-14 could only muster a sub-par 79. Ahmedabad got to their target on a canter with the loss of a solitary wicket in a mere 25 overs.
The final game was aginast the Kheda Districts Cricket Association and the boys arrived two players short - Vivek Narayan left for home early and Mohak Buch was indisposed. Ahmedabad and Kheda loaned them a player each (Ayush Sharma and Pritesh Jagad) in keeping with the excellent spirit that this entire series was played in.
Kheda Districts won the toss and put the US boys in. Team USA opened with Maulin and Shopnavo this time. The two stitched together a most impressive 55 run opening partnership in 13 overs before Shopnavo got run out; but not before stepping out and hitting a classic, lofted straight drive right over the bowler’s head for a most impressive boundary. Maulin was the sheet anchor as wickets fell on the other end before Maulin departed in the 30th over just two short of his fifty (48 off 85). Akhil Ghirnikar came to the crease after Gauranshu Sharma was stumped with the score reading 136 for 5. His impressive cameo of 22 off 18 with three fours helped the Americans reach their highest score in the series (180) for the loss of nine wickets in the full quota of 40 overs.
The Kheda openers began the chase in a classical fashion. Akhil managed to breach the defenses in the 10th over and the score was still a respectable 41 for 1. Pritesh and Parth took 8 wickets amongst themselves with Parth again getting a five-for bringing the Kheda innings to an end in the 33rd over, 48 runs short of target. It was a really strong all around display by the US team to finish the tour on a winning note.
While the Select U-14 boys did finish with a final 5-3 win-loss score, it was instructive to see some of the differences vis-à-vis their Indian counterparts. Not having turf wickets and not having proper outfields which provide appropriate value for ground strokes were the main contributors to their problems. Players tend not to see the value of appropriate timing and shift of body weight to generate power and therefore tend to rely more on brute force. Furthermore, not realizing that on turf wickets with faster outfields fielders tend to be a bit deeper, they also have difficulty clearing fielders with their lofted shots as opposed to on US grounds. Another effect of not having decent outfields is that US players do not develop the flick and leg glance strokes which are so effective with deliveries on the pads to rotate strike. They tend to play such deliveries to midwicket rather than behind square. Also, as the US boys only play limited overs cricket - where there is no margin for error with regards to wides outside the line of the leg stump – they don’t develop the ability of putting balls away outside the leg stump.
Akhil Ghirnikar (pictured at right) - Right Hand bat - 130 runs in 7 innings, 1 NO for average of 21.66 with a highest of 34
Maulin Vajir - Right Hand bat - 117 runs in 6 innings for average of 19.50 with a highest of 48
Vivek Narayan - Right Hand bat - 101 runs in 7 innings for average of 14.42 with a highest of 51
Nandan Polisetty and Gauranshu Sharma – 91 runs each
Mohak Buch (Pictured Right) - Left arm orthodox – 17 wickets in 7 matches
Parth Patel - Right arm off spinner – 16 wickets in 8 matches
Akhil Ghirnikar - Right arm off spinner - 11 wickets in 8 matches
Vivek Narayan – 10 wickets in 7 matches
Honorable mentions of the team : Shopnavo Biswas and Samet Ghirnikar demonstrated excellent resilience against India spinners. Nandan Polisetty had crucial 5 stumpings behind the wicket. Pace bowlers Jwal Shelat and Gaurav Patanker bowled with excellent line during the tournament .
Team Coach – Amit Buch and Team Manager – Rahul Sharma
Team Statistician and scoring – Deepak Brahmbhat and Avinash Ghirnikar [Click here for detailed scores]
Acknowledgements and Takeaways:
Kinjal Buch, President of CCA: "We are grateful to our sponsors Mr. Ashok Patel of US cricket academy, Mr. Michael Gale, USACA 1st Vice President and and KeyPoint Credit union of Bay area. Their sponsorship helped us keep out of pocket expenses for players under control.”
Hemant Buch, Co-founder of CCA and USACA Youth Coordinator: "CCA training focuses on batting and bowling drills designed for turf pitches. Our intense focus on technique helped boys adjust to the turf wicket after one or two games even though they have limited access to the turf pitches in USA.”
For future tours, Gujarat Cricket Association's Anil Patel suggested a three day acclimatization period through practice at the Ahmedabad Cricket Academy. CCA's coach Amit Buch recommends rigorous practice sessions for at least a month in order to prepare for these tours.
--Source: CCA Media Release/Avinash Ghirnikar; Photos - CCA.