In 2018, the Colts lost just one game the entire season and finished as Division B Champions as they defended 177 against Rangerz CC. And just like that, six years after the young starry eyed Colts looked ahead from the bottom of Division C, they are now a Division A team.
By Venu Palaparthi
Three years ago, on May 25, 2015, I wrote about my team DreamCricket Colts on DreamCricket.com, setting aside the ‘no self-promotion or self-congratulatory articles on DreamCricket.com’ principle that I had adopted over a decade ago. My development team, comprising mostly US born and bred, had achieved something remarkable - they had won their season-opener against Galloway CC in Division C of the Cricket League of New Jersey.
This was progress. In their first year as a team in 2012, they finished 12th out of 14 teams, barely avoiding scraping the bottom thanks to teams that dropped out midway. They held on to that 12th spot in 2013 among 16 teams and slipped one rank to 13th out of 18 teams in 2014. The 2015 season-opener was special for that reason. As the boys entered their teens, they gained a bit of strength and confidence. It was a coming of age for the Colts. They were not the underdogs anymore.
As 2015 season drew to a close, the Colts placed sixth out of eighteen teams. The following year, they made the playoffs. In the 2017 season, they were in the playoffs again. Their fifth place finish among twenty two teams earned a promotion to Division B for 2018.
In 2018, the Colts lost just one game the entire season and finished as Division B Champions as they defended 177 against Rangerz CC. And just like that, six years after the young starry eyed Colts attempted a lift-off from the bottom of Division C, they are now a Division A team.
To be sure, there is still more distance to cover for this bunch both in this league and in their cricketing careers. After all, they are really only just getting started.
Two of them, Raymond Ramrattan and Harish Easwaraiah, debuted for USA Under-19 last year. A third, Rohan Arvindh, is considered a prospect for 2019. Others including Jaynil Patel, Chirag Ballani, Aditya Billur, Arvind Jayakanth, Anirudh Immanuel and Varun Venkateshan have earned significant praise. The first five of these boys are still 17 or below. Thirteen year-old Anirudh Immanuel lit up the bowling charts for the Colts in 2018 with 21 wickets. Varun, who started playing cricket when he was fourteen, is eighteen now and has been rated NYCL’s Best Bowler in the U18 age category for two years running. One player, Advait Manur, moved to England where he continues to play with Southampton University CC.
DreamCricket Colts at the inaugural NYCL U16 tournament (which they won) in 2014
These boys, many of whom came to DreamCricket in 2008 as 6 and 7 year-olds, are not just Division B champions and Division A newbies, they have developed a winning habit having brought home the NYCL U18 championship two years in a row, won the AAU Olympics Gold in 2013, the NYCL U16 championship in 2014 and 2015 and the EYCL U16 championship in 2017.
The Colts have become role models for DreamCricket’s younger teams – the Warriors (U16), Panthers (U14), Thunder (U14 development), Cubs (U12) and Lightning (U10). In time, these teams have begun winning tournaments as well. You ask them where they see themselves in the future, they will tell you they want to play for the Colts. A majority of the Colts players are selecting colleges in the New Jersey area so that they can continue their cricket with the Colts.
Of course, all of this was just a dream for us at DreamCricket back in 2007 when we opened the DreamCricket Academy in New Jersey. Back then, we were one of just two indoor facilities in the country. There were no age-group teams in New Jersey and coaches were few. We began conducting camps to recruit kids because not a lot of kids were playing cricket in 2008. We hoped to somehow find enough cricket playing kids to make two teams - a very modest goal.
Our first camp at the Far Hills Fairgrounds attracted just eight kids. From that point, it became our single-minded mission to find the best coaches and mentors for DreamCricket Academy – Bharath Kumar, Ian Pont, Balvinder Singh Sandhu, Earl Daley, Ajit Tendulkar, Damion Morgan, Malika Frank, Linden Fraser - all have coached the kids over the years.
There were also one-off clinics and mentorship sessions conducted by VVS Laxman, Syed Kirmani, Stuart Macgill, Lance Gibbs, Sunil Gavaskar, Courtney Walsh and Ricardo Powell. Utlimately, it was Coach Daley who made sure the boys and girls had a coach if they chose to stick around. A Jamaican first class player who played alongside Courtney Walsh and Errol Brown, Coach Daley played for USA after he moved to this country. His batting partnership with Brown of 313 runs in the Red Stripe Cup is a record that stands to this day. His resume includes stints as coach and chief selector for the USA national team. On mostly overgrown outfields in the U.S., where cricketers’ preferred way of getting runs is to hit the ball in the air, Coach Daley emphasizes timing, technique and playing as a team. Around the country, people have spoken to me privately about the soundness of the DreamCricket player’s approach. Coach Daley is responsible for inculcating that discipline.
Of course, the Academy suffered from poor economics for much of its existence. The DreamCricket Academy is a loss leader, we told ourselves, but good times will come. We persevered in the hope that if enough kids started playing cricket, it would all be worthwhile in the long run.
By 2014, we had reached the end of the loss-leader tunnel. The point of inflection we had been waiting eagerly for seemed nowhere in sight. We shut down our indoor nets and our retail business dwindled but we continued the Academy. Coach Earl Daley and some of the Colts boys stuck with us. DreamCricket as we knew it eventually wound down in 2017 and a leaner version with just the academy, a portal and a store resumed later that year, barely hanging on to the cricketing dream despite the many setbacks. The much awaited turn of fortunes finally arrived in 2018.
DreamCricket Colts back in 2012 (Pictured Left)
2018 was rewarding in other ways as well. Thanks to Franklin Township Board of Education, DreamCricket Academy's kids, many of whom come from Somerset, now have the use of two grounds to practice and play on throughout the year. Of course, we have outgrown those two grounds and need two more in order to play home games and keep growing. More importantly, we now have six DreamCricket girls, four of whom call cricket their primary sport.
We have also begun giving back to the community in a big way over the years, raising over $10,000 for the causes we care deeply about. We have contributed most of the money to the American Cancer Society. More recently, the Franklin Food Bank has been a beneficiary as well. The 2018 ‘Cricket For A Cure’ event will be held on October 27th and our fundraising goal for this year is a modest $5,000.
If you would like to join our program or help make it bigger, or to simply find out more about junior cricket in New Jersey, you can reach us via firstname.lastname@example.org