American College Cricket Allstars Team…

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*Note that this is just one man’s opinion, and should in no way be taken as an ‘official’ Allstar Team ;-)

I had the pleasure of being at the American College Cricket Nationals in Fort Lauderdale last week. I witnessed some fantastic cricket, the standard of which is getting higher every year. What made this tournament extra special was the fact that every match was scored live by the teams on the CricHQ application, meaning that wherever I was I could keep up to date with the latest scores. CricHQ also produces a myriad of live and post-match data for consumption and analysis purposes. Using this data and my first hand viewing experience, I have compiled what I believe to be the ‘Allstar XI’ from this tournament…

1. Haider Ali (Rutgers):
Haider scored 242 runs at the tournament at an average of 48.4 and a strikerate of 170. His highest score of 115 blasted his team into the semi-finals.

2. Falahuddin Syed (South Alabama):
His 227 runs featured top scores of 120 and 99. He averaged 56.75 at a strikerate of 197. Basically when he scored runs his team won.

3. Sai Ramesh (USF Bulls):
Captain Fantastic! He lead his team to victory in their 4th finals appearance so he is my Allstar team captain. He was also the best batsman (statistically) throughout the tournament with 288 runs at 48 and a strikerate of 182. His handy off-spinners also brought him 6 wickets, but I have him in this team as the specialist wicket-keeper.

4. Saad Zafar (Ryerson):
Along with Sai Ramesh, Saad was the most impressive batsman on display, and his 116 off only 36 deliveries will long be remembered! He scored his 182 runs at an average of 45.5 and at the remarkable strikerate of 256! He also took the 2nd most wickets of anyone at the tournament with his left-arm orthodox tweakers. His bowling economy rate was 4.65 and his best figures of 5 for 3 certainly helped this!

5. Prasanna Venkatesh (Auburn):
One half of Auburns prolific opening partnership and a handy Medium paced bowler who took 4 wickets throughout the tournament. His 217 runs came at an average of 43 with a strikerate of 115. His calm 69 in the semi-final steered Auburn to the Championship match and a chance to be seen on ESPN!

6. Hassan Mirza (Ryerson):
The captain of the boys from Toronto, Hassan scored valuable top order runs for his team and his skiddy offspinners were constantly a threat. He grabbed 8 wickets with a best of 3 for 3, and his 128 runs came at an average of 43 and at a strikerate of 116.

7. Asghar Sheikh (USF):
Asghar was the best player for USF in their semi-final and performed consistently with both bat and ball. He was probably the tournaments best right arm medium/fast bowler taking 9 wickets at a cost of only 4.90 runs per over. He also scored 134 runs at 33.50 and a strikerate of 133.

8. Umer Syed (University of Texas Arlington):
Umer took 7 wickets at a cost of 5.46 and a best of 4 for 13 with his right arm offspinners. He also scored 143 runs at an average of 47.67 and a strikerate of 140. Even in this stacked ‘Allstars’ team there is an argument for him to bat a lot higher!

9. Abhishek Kulkarni (Auburn):
Kulkarni is another who could also easily bat higher in this order, however it was his right arm medium pace bowling which really caught the eye during this tournament, and his 3/14 against UMBC basically prevented the defending champs from progressing past the quarterfinals. His yorker to dismiss Sai Ramesh was also one of the best deliveries of the final - and certainly put his name in lights on ESPN television! His 8 wickets came at a cost of just 4.71 to go with his 85 runs.

10. Sapan Sharma (Rutgers):
A small but athletic left-arm medium/fast bowler, much in the mould of ex ACC Player of the Year Harsh Desai from Ryerson. Sharma took 9 wickets at 6.06 per over with a best of 3 for 26.

11. Udaybir Singh Dang (Syracuse):
A member of possibly the best bowling attack at the tournament. Once the quicks had softened up the opposition Dang came on with his tricky off-spinners and picked up bags of wickets. His 6 for 4 were the best bowling figures of the tournament, as was his overall tally of 11 wickets at a cost of only 4.25 per over. What made this even more remarkable was the fact he only played 3 games after Syracuse were unable to progress from a tough group stage.

Remember that all of the scorecards and stats for the tournament can be found here… http://americancollegecricket.com/national-championship-score/

ICC T20 Qualifiers - Canada v USA

Everyone knows this is an important assignment for both teams. They have been drawn in the same group. They play against each other in their first match. Here I cast my eye over both squads and try to compare them across the major skill sets. Firstly a list of the two squads…

United States of America – Neil McGarrell (captain), Timroy Allen, Danial Ahmed, Imran Awan, Barrington Bartley, Orlando Baker, Akeem Dodson, Karan Ganesh, Muhammad Asad Ghous, Elmore Hutchinson, Steve Massiah, Japen Patel, Adam Sanford, Srinivasa Santhanam, Steven Taylor 

Canada – Ashish Bagai (captain), Havir Baidwan, Rizwan Cheema, Henry Onsinde, Damodar Daesrath, Abzal Dean, Jeremy Gordon, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Jimmy Hansra, Kenny Kamyuka, Usman Limbada, Hiral Patel, Raza Rehman, Junaid Siddiqui, Hamza Tariq 

Now to attempt a comparison…

Top order batting (top 3):
Canada - Ruvindu Gunasekera, Hiral Patel, Usman Limbada, Rizwan Cheema
USA - Steven Taylor, Akeem Dodson, Steve Massiah

This will be an interesting battle, and in my opinion will go a long way to deciding the winner. Both teams are likely to go into the game with highly talented young opening pairs, and contrasting number threes.
Ruvindu Gunasekera and Steven Taylor are two of the most exciting young left-handed batsmen going around. Both can dominate an attack with ease on their day, but both have a tendency to throw their wickets away. Hiral Patel is another young player, but he has seemingly racked up a wealth of experience already. He has the ability to play different types of innings depending on the situation, and this heady play is probably what separates these two groups of players. Akeem Dodson is a huge talent, but hasn’t scored big against opponents of note - will this be his chance to prove he belongs at this level?
The battle of the number threes will be between the veteran Massiah for the USA and another of Canada’s young guns in Usman Limbada. If Massiah can recapture his form of old then I have no doubt that he will shadow the talented Limbada.
Although I don’t expect Rizwan Cheema to feature given recent performances, if he does get a chance to play we all know what he is capable of! He could smash a rapid 50-60 and bat USA out of the game - or he could play an awful shot across the line and be out first ball. I’m not sure the team management will gamble on his inclusion unless there is an injury to others.
(Canada to shade USA by a slim margin)

Middle order batting (4-7):
Canada - Ashish Bagai, Raza Rehman, Jimmy Hansra, Damodar Daesrath
USA - Orlando Baker, Japen Patel, Karan Ganesh, Neil McGarrel, Srinivasa Santhanam, Barrington Bartley

This is one area where Canada has a clear advantage. Lead by Ashish Bagai at 4 the Canadian middle order boasts a wealth of experience, hitting power, and recent form. Only Orlando Baker for the USA comes close to their class and will be relied upon heavily for runs and guidance. Patel, Ganesh, and Santhanam (if he gets a game) are very talented, but as yet are unproven at this level. Neil McGarrel is primarily in the team for his bowling and captaincy, but may be relied upon to prop up the middle order should the youngsters fail. I don’t expect Barrington Bartley to be in the top XI initially, but again if the current middle order struggles for runs, or there is an injury, then his experience may be important for the USA.
(Canada should dominate this battle)

Bowling - Spinners:
Canada - Junaid Siddiqui, Raza Rehman, Jimmy Hansra, Hiral Patel, Abzal Dean, Damodar Daesrath, Ruvindu Gunasekera
USA - Muhammad Asad Ghous, Neil McGarrel, Danial Ahmed, Barrington Bartley, Karan Ganesh

Canada are likely to see Siddiqui and Rehman bowl the bulk of their spin overs, with Hansra, Patel and Daesrath to add a few where required. Siddiqui is a shrewd leg-spinner who varies his speed through the air with subtlety and can be very hard to score off. Rehman is also a tidy left arm orthodox who has a habit of taking wickets. I don’t expect Abzal Dean to play, or Gunasekera to get a bowl in this lineup.
McGarrel and one of either Ghous or Ahmed will be the front line spin options (or perhaps both depending on whether they want three front line quicks) for the USA. All three are accomplished short format bowlers and have been known to take key wickets. However, the two youngsters do have a habit of beginning their spells with rank deliveries. Karan Ganesh and/or Barrington Bartley will offer some tidy (and rapid - time how long it takes Ganesh to get through an over!) overs if required.
(too close to call)

Bowling - Medium/Fast:
Canada - Henry Osinde, Jeremy Gordon, Harvir Baidwan, Kenny Kamyuka, Rizwan Cheema
USA - Adam Sanford, Timroy Allen, Elmore Hutchinson, Imran Awan, Srinivasa Santhanam, Japen Patel

Canada have the young and rapid Jeremy Gordon, the experienced and skilled Harvir Baidwan, and their World Cup hero Henry Osinde to lead their pace attack. I don’t expect Kamyuka or Cheema to play. Gordon can be destructive on his day, and has been in great form since coming back from injury this summer. However, he does have a history of losing his line at times, and has also had problems with no-balls. Baidwan has some experience playing on the circuit in the UK and has become a master of his craft, able to move the ball in both directions through the air and off the seam. However, if he doesn’t get things exactly right he can leak runs due to his slower pace. Osinde is a good honest tryer, but even he would admit, is in the twilight of a great career. Will his body hold up?
The USA have the ex-West Indies test player Adam Sanford, The fresh out of retirement Timroy Allen, and the left-armer Elmore Hutchinson. To be fair I don’t know alot about Imran Awan - although apparently he has wheels, and I don’t think Santhanam will see much game time barring injury. Adam Sanford could be the USA’s ace player. He demonstrated some remarkable skill and a very quick effort-ball during recent practice matches against Bermuda, however, like Osinde for Canada his best years are behind him. Timroy Allen is in a similar mould to Jeremy Gordon although not as quick, but he does offer more with the bat. Hutchinson is useful for the USA in that he provides the variation being a left armer.
I expect if everyone stays fit and bowls to their potential that the USA will have the slight edge here.
(USA by the tiniest of margins)
 

Wicketkeepers:
Canada - Ashish Bagai, Hamza Tariq
USA - Akeem Dodson, Steven Taylor

Hamza Tariq probably wont get a game unless Bagai gets injured, however they wouldn’t lose much with his inclusion. In fact he may be an option at the top of the order if either Gunasekera or Patel struggle. For the USA Dodson is clearly the first choice keeper. Should he get injured then Taylor would do an adequate job only.
(Canada with the advantage)

Summary:

In summary I expect Canada to win this game. Their squad is slightly better on paper and they come in to the tournament with much better preparation having had a full domestic summer of internationals and a two week training camp in Sri Lanka. However, as we know a game of T20 can be decided by one piece of individual brilliance, so it’s by know means a foregone conclusion. 

What I do hope is that both teams perform well, and despite the final result take some confidence into their other matches. I would love to see both teams qualify for the T20 World Cup!!!