Four players from South West, three players from the champion Mid-Atlantic squad, two from West Zone Reds, plus one each from Colts and South Zone make up the Dreamcricket All-Tournament Best XI for the 2021 USA U19 National Championship in Texas.
Picture credit: Peter Della Penna
By Peter Della Penna (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna
Dreamcricket.com is recognizing the best performers from last week’s 2021 USA Cricket U19 National Championship in Texas. To clarify, these were the players who were deemed to be the best performers on the week at the event over the course of the 16 matches that were contested. There may be other players who are better prospects for the USA U19 national team who were outperformed on the week and there is scope for honorable mentions to be made after the listing of the all-tournament team.
As is the case in other post-event evaluations made on Dreamcricket, extra weight has been given to batting and bowling performances made against teams who finished in the top half of their respective groups and played in either the first place or third place matches compared to performances against teams who finished in the bottom half of their respective groups. The best performers in this group at the USA U19 National Championships might also wind up differing from the best 14-man squad that is eventually picked to play for USA at the 2021 ICC U19 World Cup Americas Regional Qualifier later this summer hosted by the USA.
1 Rehman Dar (South West)
– As a 16-year-old, the left-hander sat on the bench for the entire tournament as a member of the 2019 USA U19 squad in Canada. It’s hard to envision that happening again in 2021 as Dar finished as the leading scorer in Texas with 317 runs – 50 more than the next best player – at an average of 105.67. He made two fifties and one century, the tournament’s highest individual score with 148 off 146 balls against East Zone. Dar consistently played the cleanest innings with the fewest chances offered and because of that he was also a tremendous teammate to bat with as he compiled the most 50+ partnerships of any player at the tournament with six. This included the largest partnership of the tournament with a 174-run third-wicket stand alongside Ali Sheikh against East Zone.
2 Sai Mukkamalla (Mid-Atlantic)
– One of the most exciting prospects for USA U19 playing every game as a 15-year-old at the 2019 qualifier in Canada, Mukkamalla gave a reminder of his immense talent by claiming the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award in leading the Mid-Atlantic Zone to the tournament title with a team-best 254 runs at an average of 63.50. He had the highest strike rate for any opener in the event at 100.40, scoring two fifties as well as a century against South Zone. He ended the tournament with a half-century in a successful chase in the final over South West just a day after celebrating his 17th
3 Slade van Staden (Colts, wk)
– Nobody picked length as quickly as the right-hander did at this event, and it allowed him to excel equally well against pace and spin. Arguably nobody scored more runs square of the wicket in Texas than van Staden, who was merciless on cuts, pulls and sweeps. He ended with 175 runs in three innings including one fifty against the champion Mid-Atlantic side and one century against West Zone Blues – the second-best score of the tournament with 120 off 124 balls – finishing with an average of 58.33. He showed he is human though, making a golden duck in his only other knock.
4 Ali Sheikh (South West, capt.)
– Arguably the most savage striker of the ball in Texas, Sheikh demonstrated the Cobra Kai mantra of “Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy” towards bowlers all week long. With the bat, he made 155 runs at an average of 51.67 and a strike rate of 106.90, including two half-centuries for the tournament runner-up. He also had the most sixes in Texas with six on the week. As for his bowling, he tied for fifth overall with seven wickets at an average of 12.57 and had the second best economy rate for any bowler who bowled at least one over per team game, giving up just 2.51 per over in 35 overs of left-arm spin. In windy conditions all week, he showed exceptional control, bowling just one wide. Having been USA U19’s most economical bowler (1.72) with the most maidens (10 in 22 overs) at the 2019 Qualifier in Canada, his batting has improved to make him a serious all-round threat.
5 Skanda Rohit Sharma (West Zone Reds)
– In a country that has struggled at both junior and senior level to develop dependable middle-order batsmen capable of adapting to various situations, Skanda was worth his weight in gold for Reds. He scored 267 runs at the tournament, good for second overall, but had the highest average at 133.50 having been dismissed just twice. He top-scored in three of his team’s four matches and was the only player to be involved in multiple century partnerships at the tournament. In both situations, Skanda showed his calmness under pressure to dig his side out of major holes. Against East Zone, he constructed a 146-run seventh-wicket stand alongside Ajay Immadi to finish with 115 off 111 balls in an eventual 156-run win. Arguably an even more impressive knock came in the third place playoff when he made an unbeaten 90 off 94 balls, including an unbeaten 104-run eighth-wicket stand with Adil Shivakumar to rescue Reds from 111 for 7 in a three-wicket win over South Zone.
6 Ishan Sharma (Mid-Atlantic)
– The right-handed middle-order batsman finished with the second-best average at the tournament playing for the champion squad, scoring 118 runs while only being dismissed once in four innings. That second-ball duck against South Zone came just a day after he had produced one of the innings of the tournament, an unbeaten 92 off 89 balls in a four-wicket win over Colts. On that occasion, Ishan entered at 101 for 4 after 24 overs chasing a stiff target of 279 but teamed with Ritwik Behera for arguably the partnership of the tournament. The pair added 124 for the fifth wicket, the top fifth-wicket stand at the event and third highest partnership overall. It was also the highest partnership of the event by any chasing team and set the tone for Mid-Atlantic to go on to claim the tournament title.
7 Ritwik Behera (Mid-Atlantic)
– There was stiff competition for this slot but Behera edged out South West’s Mihir Cherukupalli, East’s Taahaa Warraich, Colts’ Rishi Ramesh, and fellow Mid-Atlantic teammate Yasir Mohammad based on Behera’s overall consistency and all-round contributions made in a championship squad. Behera played a pivotal role from the opening day by making 61 off 51 balls in a brutal counter-attacking knock as part of a 124-run fifth-wicket partnership alongside Ishan Sharma in the win over Colts and ended with 92 runs at an average of 46.00 in three innings. Though he might not be a first-choice bowling option in the Mid-Atlantic team, Behera had a golden arm with his offspin, ending with a team-best seven wickets – tied for fifth overall in Texas – at an average of 13.86 and economy of 4.77 in 20.2 overs for the tournament champs.
8 Sanjay Krishnamurthi (West Zone Reds)
– The tournament’s leading wicket-taker was a nightmare to face all week with his boa-constrictor-esque left-arm spin. Not only did he take a tournament-best nine wickets at a tournament-best average of 7.44, but his economy rate of 1.92 was miles better than the next closest player with at least one over bowled per team game, South West captain Sheikh at 2.51 per over. Like Sheikh, his control was remarkable considering the windy conditions, conceding just two wides in 34.5 overs while bowling six maidens. Though he struggled with the bat during an off week – making 53 runs in four innings with a best of 35 at No. 3 – his bowling exploits ensured that the allrounder should still be a shoe-in for the USA U19 starting XI later this summer.
9 Rohan Phadke (South)
– The North Carolina product consistently challenged batsmen with his accurate lengths all week and was the only bowler besides Krishnamurthi to take at least three wickets twice in a match during the tournament. He ended tied for fifth with seven wickets, the second-most of any pace bowler at the event, at an average of 13.86 and an economy of 4.16 in 23.2 overs. The caliber of batsmen he claimed was also noteworthy. His 3 for 35 against Mid-Atlantic included the dangerous Yasir Mohammad for 38 and Ishan Sharma for a second-ball duck. His tricky medium pace also produced a golden duck from Slade van Staden as well as Rishi Shimpi for 4 – who had made a half-century on the opening day against Mid-Atlantic – during his haul of 4 for 17 against Colts. He showed his all-round skills by also finishing as South's leading scorer, ending with 103 runs at an average of 34.33. He teamed with Heer Patel for an unbeaten 109-run first-wicket stand, the largest opening partnership of the tournament, ending 46 not out off 49 balls in a 10-wicket win over Colts.
10 Abhiram Valisammagari (South West)
– The USA U19 veteran fast bowler from 2019 gets the nod over Rohan Posanipally – despite the same number of wickets – due to Valisammagari’s superior impact in their head-to-head showdown as well as a better overall economy rate and average. The Plano, Texas product took 3 for 38 in the biggest showdown of the group stage against West Zone Reds, including both opening batsmen, to help restrict Reds to 173 in an eventual seven-wicket win. Overall he claimed five wickets – tied for 10th
overall – at an average of 17.40, but his economy rate of 2.90 was the best of any fast bowler in the tournament.
11 Soorya Selvakumar (South West)
– The left-arm medium pacer proved to be a handy tag-team partner to the more experienced Valisammagari during South West’s run to the tournament final. Selvakumar finished tied for second overall with eight wickets – and was tied for the tournament lead at the end of the group stage – but took the most for any pace bowler at the tournament. They came at an average of 18.12 and a slightly expensive economy rate of 5.09, but he was able to attack because Valisammagari regularly kept up the pressure at the opposite end. His biggest haul came on the opening day when he claimed 4 for 20 against Midwest, but his consistency shone throughout group play with 2 for 49 against East and 2 for 59 against West Zone Reds.
– Finished eighth overall in runs with 129 at an average of 43.00 and a best of 59 against Mid-Atlantic. He was involved in three half-century partnerships, tied for third-most of any batsman at the tournament.
– Scored 91 runs at an average of 31.33 and a best of 50 on the opening day against Mid-Atlantic.
– Legspinner took the tournament’s best single match figures of 6 for 4 in the fifth place playoff against East and ended tied for second overall with eight wickets at an average of 8.00 and an economy of 3.37.
– Finished sixth overall in runs with 140 at an average of 35.00 and a best of 84 against South West, the sixth highest individual score at the tournament as well as being the highest score made against either of the eventual finalists.
– Finished seventh overall in runs with 137 at an average of 34.25 and a best of 60 against Midwest.
– Finished third on the team and 14th
overall with 96 runs at an average of 24.00 and a best of 48 against South West. He was a partnership builder, producing a 105-run fifth wicket stand alongside Warraich against South West digging their side out from 27 for 4, and a 98-run third-wicket stand alongside Shaw against Midwest. Bhatia also bowled some very tricky mystery spin. Though he only took four wickets, he had numerous chances dropped off his bowling and claimed some big names including former USA U19 representative Rahul Jariwala, Minor League T20 MVP Sanjay Krishnamurthi and South West No. 3 Pranav Narsetty.
– Legspinning allrounder took five wickets and also scored 92 runs at 23.00 including a best of 51 against Midwest.
– Medium pacer claimed the tournament’s first five-wicket haul, ending with 5 for 45 against Midwest and ended with a team-best six wickets.
– The allrounder scored 87 runs at an average of 29.00 including a best of 42 not out against West Zone Blues. He was the most aggressive player of the reverse sweep during the tournament, a skill not shown by most players at junior or senior level in the USA. His legspin also produced six wickets, foremost a momentum shifting 4 for 35 in the tournament final against South West that included Rehman Dar and Ali Sheikh. He was also the most impactful fielder at the event, taking five catches as well as being involved in two runouts.
– After a lean run in group play making four runs in two innings, Parwal scored a mature 52 off 92 balls in the tournament final against South West.
– The left-arm spinner took five wickets overall, including 3 for 31 in the tournament final against South West.
– The legspinner took a team-best five wickets at an average of 38.80 and an economy of 6.06. But don’t let his numbers fool you. Playing for a winless last-place team, Visal had double-digit dropped chances off his bowling, the most of any bowler in the tournament, including six in one match against East.
– Ended as his side’s leading scorer with 91 runs at an average of 45.50, including Midwest’s only half-century of the event when he top-scored with 70 in the seventh place playoff against West Zone Blues.
– The tall wicketkeeper batsman scored 102 runs, 11th
overall, at an average of 34.00 and a best of 53 against Midwest. He never got a chance to bat against West Zone Reds when he wasn’t needed in a seven-wicket win, and he ran out of partners against Mid-Atlantic, winding up last man out for 14 after entering at No. 7 with the score 132 for 5 as South West were bowled out for 171 in the final.
– Wicketkeeper and part-time spinner took five wickets and scored 73 runs in three innings but saved his best for the third place playoff, making 53 against West Zone Reds.
Elton Tucker Jr
– In a crowded spin bowling field, the left-arm spinner tied for second-most in the tournament with eight wickets at 8.38 and an average of 3.14. He tied for the tournament lead in wickets after group play, but was rested for the third place playoff against West Zone Reds to allow others a chance under the tournament guidelines that each player in the squad must play at least two games.
– After getting out for a duck in his lone innings of group play, Gupta played an eye-catching 43 off 22 balls against West Zone Reds in the third place playoff, including three consecutive sixes in an over against the tournament’s fastest bowler, Rohan Posanipally.
West Zone Blues
– Ended as the team’s leading scorer with 92 runs in four innings, including a best of 69 in the seventh place playoff against Midwest.
– In a weak batting lineup, was often left to fend for himself in the middle-order after early collapses. Ended with 91 runs in four innings with a best of 48 against Colts but was a part of two half-century partnerships against Mid-Atlantic and Colts.
– Ended with a team-best five wickets at an average of 5.64 and an average of 24.80. The left-arm medium pacer was one of the few bowlers to get noticeable shape and movement through the air.
West Zone Reds
– His five wickets may have been expensive at an average of 26.20 and economy of 5.57, but he was by far the sharpest and most intimidating fast bowler in Texas. He missed out on an opportunity to beef up his stats when he was rested against the eventual last place Midwest squad, who wound up being bowled out for 100 on the day despite Posanipally’s absence.
– The spinning allrounder made 66 runs at an average of 66.00, including a best of 60 not out off 46 balls as part of a devastating 146-run seventh-wicket partnership against East. He also tied with Posanipally for second-best on the team with five wickets at a much better average of 11.00 and an economy of 3.44.
– The 2019 USA U19 squad’s starting wicketkeeper had a lean week with the bat, ending with 58 runs at an average of 19.33. But the 16-year-old was arguably the best pure gloveman on display in Texas and took the catch of the tournament with a one-handed screamer off Posanipally’s bowling against Mid-Atlantic.
[Views expressed in this article are those of the author, who was present every day of the tournament held at Prairie View Cricket Complex in Texas, and do not necessarily represent the views of Dreamcricket management. If you have different views or opinions, we respect those views and urge you to provide your feedback, both positive and negative. Feel free to respond to the author via Twitter @PeterDellaPenna.]