For most part of American cricket history, cricket has been sustained by waves of immigrants, except maybe for a brief time when schools in Philadelphia and parts of New England promoted the virtues of cricket and where American-born took to the sport.
In schools such as Philadelphia Free Academy, 300 of the total strength of 500 students played cricket in 1860. Throughout 1860s, authorities supported cricket at private secondary schools such as John Quincy Adams Grammar School, Protestant Episcopal Academy, Farmer’s High School of Bellafonte (predecessor of Penn State), Central High School of Philadelphia and Lawrenceville School near Trenton.
By 1878, Philadelphian students of the 1860s had developed into a solid cricket team. They were strong enough to earn a draw against the visiting Australian side that year. Not just any Australian side. This was the Australian team that had completed a victorious tour of England and had bowled out MCC twice in one day.
That was then!
Fast forward to 2007 - Junior cricket is catching on once again.
After being uprooted comprehensively in the early 20th century, cricket is once again taking root at the junior level.
Some argue that it is still predominantly a passion of expatriate sons and daughters, but in the absence of any major grassroots level cricket programs for mainstream America, the only role models and coaches may be cricket playing expatriates. Junior cricket is getting a huge lift, thanks mainly to interest shown by cricket playing immigrants of 1990s. When they arrived, they caused an explosion of cricket clubs across USA, now they are investing in the future of cricket.
And as one parent proudly told me "My son is an American, he likes all sports but wants to be a cricketer!" In most cases, kids that have chosen to play cricket, do so alongside other sports. On New Jersey's junior side, there are several kids that have played varsity level soccer, tennis, baseball and volleyball. Most, if not all, have shown a strong preference for cricket as compared to other sports.
NCCA Colts playing CCA U-11
Cricket Academies, schools and leagues
In the Bay Area, the California Cricket Academy has conducted year-round training and cricket clinics since 2003. The Academy also hosts the annual national tournament. This year's tournament starts on Thursday.
In New Jersey, the Junior NJ Cricket program boasts 70 young cricketers. In the City of Fontana, near Los Angeles, the Citrus Valley Junior Cricket Academy has been successfully training junior cricketers for 3 years. This academy boasts three natural turf pitches and a bowling machine.
In California and New Jersey, little kids, some as young as 5 years old, show up for practice three days a week. In New Jersey, the Junior team has indoor practices through the winter months.
Although CCA, Citrus Valley, and JNJC are completely dedicated to youth cricket, they are not alone in promoting the game. New York City schools have initiated the Public Schools Athletic League program this year in which seven schools expect to participate.
Lawrenceville School has had a cricket program for some 150 years. Students of this elite private school continue to play cricket there under the guidance of former English teacher "Max" Maxwell. Other schools across the country have accepted cricket.
Leagues too have taken an active interest in the sport. Leading the way is the Northern California Cricket Association, which is sending its U-11 Colts and U-15 Mustangs to the national tournament.
"The plan is to have a base in the East Bay in Union City and another base in the South Bay in Santa Clara. We plan to offer at least 3 months of Summer Cricket Coaching classes for 6 - 15 yr olds," said Ganesh Sanap when asked about NCCA's plans for junior cricket.
NCCA has an enviable track record with nurturing cricket - the NCCA U-19 Squad won the National Championship in 2006. "Most of the current adult cricketers will be out of action in about 5 years. By then, these youngsters will be in their 20s and ready to serve the sport in this area," says Ganesh. With the Colts and Mustangs padding up, Ganesh can rest assured that cricket will be around for a long time.
NCCA Director Sarabjith Chadha says "In the beginning, the kids were very raw, but under the guidance of (NCCA Junior Cricket Coach) Owen Graham, the kids are developing in all aspects of the game."
Competitive cricket is key to growth
The NCCA U-11 Colts defeated CCA U-11 Cubs in a practice match over the weekend The U-15 Mustangs lost to their CCA counterparts in the other practice match – the first of the season. It is this kind of real-match experience that the kids most enjoy.
Back in New Jersey, the Junior NJ Cricket program has designated Fridays for real contests. "Mondays and Wednesdays are for practice, but Fridays are for 25 over
Little League matches," says Kal Patel who runs this program. He recently secured space from Far Hills to build the first ever astro-turf pitch specifically for youth development in the North East.
Across USA, cricket camps have become commonplace. In the last 12 months, Dreamcricket.com reported cricket camps and clinics in 8 major cities.
Karsan Ghavri, former Indian test cricketer, conducted clinics in Chicago and Dallas in June. Last summer, three former Indian cricketers, Javagal Srinath, Praveen Amre and Venkatesh Prasad conducted a summer camp in NJ. Robin Singh conducted a camp the year before. In California, Syed Abid Ali has been conducting cricket camps for the Stanford Cricket Club’s Cricket Academy since 2006.
These camps serve a special purpose because they light the spark for junior cricketers. They offer a point of entry for the aspiring while polishing the more established cricketer who is rough around the edges.
A Junior NJ Cricketer, 11 year old Rishi Patel says that the camps that his father enrolled him in when he was younger helped him to develop interest in the game. Once he became an eager cricketer, a longer-term program like the Junior NJ cricket program was essential to keep him charged up. He is now a cricketer for life. Last year, he toured Wales as part of USA U-13 team.
The National Junior Championship
The US National Junior Cricket Tournament is a great platform for future cricketers to showcase their talent. CCA conducted this tournament for the first time in 2006. Northwest Centurions won the U-15 championship last year and three CCA cricketers represented USA in the International Cricket Council's Under-15 Americas 2006 Tournament.
CCA won the Under-11 and Under-13 championships as well. In recognition of CCA’s successful promotion of cricket at youth level, it was awarded the ICC Global Youth Development Award.
This year's tournament begins tomorrow and promises to be exciting. Eight teams are competing in the U-15 championship, three teams in Under-13 and four in the Under-11 championships. Since all expenses must be borne by the youngsters in the absence of any development funds, only serious contestants accept invitations for this tournament.
Most of the TCA (Canadian U-11) cricketers aspire to play for Canada whereas most of USA youngsters want to play for England or India or Pakistan.
Is it because they realize that USA is a cricketing pariah, owing to USACA’s suspension and relegation from Division III?
Or is it because they really want to aim higher than playing for an ICC Associate country? Somehow, I suspect it is the former.
Hopefully USACA and ICC will restore the youngsters’ confidence in USA cricket before they leave for greener pastures.
For the first time, the organizers are arranging a live webcast (http://www.eprasaran.com/) of the championship.
When it comes to supporting junior cricket in USA, Dreamcricket.com has put its money where its mouth is. It supports junior cricket through sponsorship of the National Championship as well as the NJ U-15 team. Our sister site, www.pavilionshop.com offers substantial discount to all recognized junior cricket programs.
Pen pix of the teams participating in the Junior Championship
NCCA U-15 Mustangs
Aman Bajaj. Right hand bat & Right arm bowler. Has played for Tri-Valley CC in the D-div and also had a taste of B-division cricket last weekend.
Wesley Booth. Fearless striker of the ball, keeps wickets, bowls medium pace. To me, he is a cat among the pigeons
Swaranjit Chadha, son of Sarabjit Chadha. bowls medium pace and is a steady bat.
Imran Nana, son of Ozair Nana is an off spinner who turns the ball a long way.
Sanket Karamchandani is a fairly accurate leg-spinner.
Sidhant Karamchandani is a medium pace bowler.
Ashish Bharadwaj is a middle order bat and is the designated wicket keeper of the squad.
Sefath Yassini, nephew of Mujeeb Khan (Indus CC) is the youngest of the squad and is another lad with aggressive batting instincts.
Krutarth Shah is a very steady bat.
Hamza Ahmed, son of Saeed Ahmad (Stanford-A CC), Karan Pandher, Varun Sethi & Aman Arora are all learning.
NJ Select XI (JNJC Colts)
Cameron Mirza, 13 yrs, is an all rounder. Tim Sparke, Coach of NSW in Australia called him an excellent prospect. Cameron wants to play for Pakistan or England.
Mital Patel, 15 yrs, is an all rounder. He once scored 53 off 17 balls in a CLNJ league match. Mital played U-13 and U-15 for USA and would like to play county cricket for England and progress from there.
Neil Amin, 12 yrs, got 5 wickets in a match recently. Neil plays golf and hopes to become a restaurateur.
Parth Amin, 13 yrs, is an all rounder who was in a 31 run partnership and took two wickets in a match. He was awarded the Most versatile soccer player in school. Paarth plays golf and cricket with dad. He wants to invent something when he grows up.
Parth Patel, 14 yrs, is an all rounder who once scored 25 off 37 balls. He also got 3 for 30 in 7 overs. He plays volleyball for his school. Parth went to Wales with USA U-13 team. Wants to become a pharmacist if cricket ambitions do not work out.
Rishi Patel, 11 yrs, got 4 wickets in 8 overs in a league game playing for his junior team vs St. Paul’s CC. Rishi also won man of match award when USA U-13 toured England. Rishi is a huge fan of Kevin Pietersen.
Steven Sawh, 14 yrs, is a batsman who once scored 53 and carried the bat. Steven, who likes to talk to intelligent girls, is a fan of Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan. Steven wants to start with county cricket, study engineering in England and play for West Indies some day.
Vraj Patel, 13 yrs, is an all rounder, who got a hat-trick in a 3 on 3 match. He effectively bowled opponents out for 0. Vraj has 8 trophies for soccer and is a honor roll student. Vraj wants to be like Naruto Uzumaki.
Akash Pathak, 14 yrs, is an all rounder and a big Flintoff fan. Akash made all-star team in baseball in the first year that he played.
Brandon Dunbar, 15 yrs, is a medium pace bowler and middle order batsman. Likes to bat like Lara, bowl like Brett Lee and field like Jonty. Brandon began playing in South Africa where he captained Randburg Cricket Club U-13 from 2001-2004 and played for U/19 South East Region.
He played for Surrey Cricket Club in England in 2005. Brandon was on the USA team that won Americas U15 championship in 2006.
Partha Agrawal, 14 yrs, became interested in cricket after watching India vs. Australia 2003 World Cup match. He recently won a Gold medal in a Math competition in Illinois.
Neil Akolkar, 13 yrs, was born in India and hence cricket is in his blood. He is a good wicketkeeper.
Aashay Chavan, 15 yrs, once took 5 wickets including a hat trick. He was awarded "Bowler of the Tournament" in a Michigan Tournament and "Man of the Match" in Detroit tournament in 2006.
Abhishek Deshpande, 12 yrs, is a percussionist who has a penchant for diving because catches win matches. Abhishek was selected for All-Star baseball team in 2005 and a Gifted Students program.
Sanat Divekar, 13 yrs, is an all rounder who once got 3 wickets and scored 18 runs in the same match. He wants to be part of at least one college sports team and plays football, wrestling, tracks & basketball alongside cricket.
Vivek Joglekar, 12 yrs, became interested in cricket thanks to Sanat and other friends. He is a bowler and is known to bowl very tight spells. Once, he bowled 2 overs giving only 1 run at a critical stage.
Paarth Joshi, 12 yrs, is an all rounder who once scored 32 (not out) in a 15 over game and took 5 wickets in another game. Paarth has a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.
George Kalapurakal, 14 yrs, once got 2 catches in a match. His father is a keen cricketer. George plays soccer as well and has the most number of assists in his school soccer team.
Thomas Kalapurakal, 12 yrs, once got 2 wickets in 2 consecutive balls. Thomas wants to be the best in school – both academically and in athletics.
Jarrod Lee, 12 yrs, once gave away 4 runs and took 6 wickets! A Freddie Flintoff fan, he wants to play county cricket in UK.
Ryan Lee, 14 yrs, got interested in cricket after watching England win The Ashes in 2005. As a bowler, got 5 wickets for 16 runs in a match in 2005.
Vinay Nagaraj, 13 yrs, is a bowler who once got 2 wickets in 3 overs for 5 runs.
His team won the Midwest Cricket Tournament and was selected for a conference in Washington D.C.
Amrit Prasad, 15 yrs, scored 15 runs against another U15 team. Amrit is a Honor student in Middle School.
Tanmay Sambare, 13 yrs, once scored 56 (not out). He plays USTA tennis, baseball chess and is part of a band. Tanmay wants to play college tennis.
Profiles of CCL, CITRUS Cougars, CCA2 Sharks, Chicago-II (MMCA-A), CCA1 All-Stars are awaited.
NCCA U-11 Colts
The NCCA U-11 Colts team is being led from the front by 10 year old Nikhil Trivedi (son of Rupal Trivedi, Spartans CC). Nikhil is an all rounder and also a baseball Allstar.
Bavneet Singh (son of Rocky Singh, East Bay CC) is the vice-captain, wicket keeper and a hard-hitting batsman.
Aditya Joshi is a right hand bat and a right arm bowler.
Omkar Salpekar is a left hand bat and a left arm bowler.
Elias Yassini, nephew of Mujeeb Khan (Indus CC) is an opening bat and a medium pacer.
Parry Singh is the fastest bowler among them lads.
Abhinav Bharadwaj is a right hand bat and a right arm bowler. He is also a Baseball-Allstar.
The other lads Harshayu Girase, Shrey Kapoor, Rohan Divate, Vignesh Ram, Taejas Ram, Sahil Upadhyay & Abhijit Brahme are all quickly learning the trade.
The understudies: Nishay Chitale who is only 6 years old but is so passionate about Cricket that he comes to the practice all the way from San Francisco every week. He has been to the Cricket World Cup in West Indies and can't stop talking about it .
Manraj Singh(younger son of Rocky Singh) is 5 years old and is another lad with his father's instincts, see the ball, hit the ball. He just loves to just bat on.
Toronto Cricket Association U-11
Neel Shah, 10 yrs, all rounder says his role-model is his coach Brian Hale
Amish Taploo, 9 yrs, all rounder took to cricket after watching his father play the game. He is a violinist and has played Violin in Toronto Centre of Arts and received 3 performance certificates.
Shehan Sarap, 11 yrs, is an all-rounder who started playing cricket when he was a five-year old. Shehan wants to become a best all rounder and represent Canada.
Tirth Bhatt, 10 yrs, is an all rounder.
Vansh Lal, 11 yrs, is an all rounder.
Darshan Patel, 11 yrs, is an all rounder who looks up to Adam Gilchrist, Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Akram.
Maisam Raheem Janmohamed, 10 yrs, wants to become the best all-rounder and represent Canada.
Miraj Patel, 10 yrs, all rounder, is a Bollywood fan who wants to become a professional cricketer.
Eric Sean Sivadas, 9 yrs, all rounder received the Vikal Kumar Best Fielder Award.
Neel Gupta, 11 yrs.; all rounder who wants to represent Canada at the International level
Asad Ali Siyyid, 11 yrs, all rounder who wants to represent Canada.
Sahil Nikumbh, 11yrs, all rounder.
Profiles are awaited for CCA 2 Cubs and CCA 1 Jaguars
The teams are CCA Lords, Citrus Mustangs, Michigan MMCA-B.
Profiles are awaited for these teams.