The Queens United Cricket Academy (QUCA) youth team recently returned from a 10-day cricket tour to Trinidad & Tobago. The team played six games against very high-quality opponents, and while they were winless, the tour as a whole was the most successful one that the academy has ever undertaken.
When youth teams, or any team for that matter, from non-cricket playing countries, tour a cricketing nation, the expectations and the measure of success ought to be very different and contextual. According to the QUCA director and head coach George Samuel, to see what the team achieved, we need to “scratch beneath the surface of the match results.” The successes of the tour may be found not in the numbers, but in some of the standout team and individual performances and the progress made by individuals in terms of skills and cricketing nous.
The QUCA boys trained hard in the cold of the winter albeit indoors, and tested their mettle in hot weather conditions, with a challenging schedule against some of the top youth teams in Trinidad. It was heartening to see them take all ten wickets in most of the games. Going winless into the last game, the coaches’ feared general fatigue and probably a lack of enthusiasm as the boys struggled to take a single wicket in the first 30 overs, with the opposition sitting pretty at 185 without loss. But the QUCA boys showed tremendous resolve to come back from that situation to get all the wickets for 215 runs ultimately. That ability to fight to the end was one of the big successes of the tour.
In their the game against a Queens Park Oval XI, the top order struggled and chasing about 250 runs the team was down to 98 for 7 in 20 overs. The lower order showed great courage and determination to stay at the crease for the entire 40 overs. While the team could only reach 152 in the end, the lower order batsmen Ansaar Yasim and Jeremy Samuels played together for close to 18 overs. When 10-year-old Jeremy returned to the pavilion, the applause from the members at the Queens Park Oval was a sight to behold. Assistant coach Lalit Bhatia recalls sitting in the Members Bar and being asked about Jeremey the next afternoon – literally a memorable performance.
Despite being indoors all winter and going into the first game with just one outdoor practice session, the QUCA boys did an exceptional job in the field as well. They chased down the boundaries and backed up the throws. They took all the catches and barely let an overthrow. With every game, Captain Mohammad Shaw took the coaches’ feedback and improved as a leader.
For some players, this was their first tour, and their eagerness to learn and improve their game rubbed off on some of the more seasoned team members. They asked for 6:00 am practices and did not flag when the day and night games went well past 11:00 pm some nights.
Talking of Day and Night games: In terms of organization, this was far and away one of the best-organized youth tours from the USA. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the QUCA director George Samuel, the team was able to play their games at the Queens Park Oval (a Test cricket stadium), the Brain Lara Academy (the stadium for last year’s CPL final), and the Diego Martin Stadium, which is a brand new cricket stadium near Port of Spain. Three of the six games were live-streamed with three cameras and commentary by professional commentators (For context, the USA National team Division 2 games in Namibia last month were streamed with only two cameras) In addition, four games were played under lights, which was a truly memorable experience. Right from flight arrangements and accommodations to local transportation, meals, handling sicknesses, etc., the tour was executed flawlessly at a very affordable price for the team. The team also had the services of a local coach and guide who took care of all the minor details like making sure that all the food and water was delivered to games, that we always had at least three local players available to join the team, equipment issues, etc.
The QUCA management is no doubt very proud and heartened by the performance of the team and is looking forward to many more such tours in the coming years.
For more information about QUCA, visit www.quca.org or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org