Strikers cricket team
A victorious Strikers team.

By Hemant Kaligotla
The much-coveted Eagle ProT20 for the year 2021 finished the first week of May. Eagle Cricket Club has been organizing the tournament for the past six years. The tournament helped us raise money for various charities, officially kick-start the season every year, and acted as a conduit to introduce new players and build camaraderie amongst them.

The tournament’s final day always provides an excellent opportunity to bring families together, celebrate each other, and wholeheartedly thank the sponsors, volunteers, and players for making an event like this even possible. The club has successfully raised more than $35,000 in donations over the years and supported various charities, the local community, and individuals in need of assistance.

Congratulations to the Strikers on winning the 2021 edition of the tournament. A special thank you to runner-up Panthers for their perseverance to play three back-to-back games on the same day and perform excellently. All the games were very close, and the other team’s Ninjas and Avengers played and competed at the highest level. Thanks to all the captains, their efforts led to smooth scheduling and management of the tournament.

The final day had three games scheduled. The eliminator in the morning was between Panthers and Avengers. Panthers choose to bat, and a well-made 34 from Emanuel Seecharran supported by Arun Prakash resulted in a total of 120 for the loss of 4 wickets. Avengers started strong with Shashin Thakar and Ravi Rao leading the way with well-made ’20s. Nikhil Reddy gave the necessary boost with 31, but the rest of the team couldn’t capitalize on the start, and the team fell two runs short of the target. It was a disappointing loss to a solid Avengers line-up, and a three-wicket haul from Bhautik Tapiwala propelled the team into the final qualifier.

Panthers faced Ninjas in the elimination round before the finals. Anil Yedugani provided a great start of 29 off 17 balls. Emanuel Seecharran continued his brilliant form and scored another 31 in 24 balls. A substantial last-minute boost from Deepak Bahadur with 29 in 18 balls propelled the team to 146/6 in 18 overs. The Ninjas were asked to chase this mammoth total. Vineet Balan and Rohit Rishi put a great fight, but an excellent spell from Joshua Dhanai sealed the deal for Panthers, with Ninjas only scoring 119 with the loss of 8 wickets. It was a tough loss for the Ninjas, who were the table-toppers during the league stage.

The stage was set for the finals between Panthers and Strikers. Panthers won the toss and elected to bat. Strikers started strong but dropped multiple catches, and the fielding was sloppy. The captain Saptesh Sawant did his best to rally the players, and with some strong bowling performances, they curtailed the Panthers for 147 for the loss of three wickets. Anil Yedugani continued his brilliant form and scored a scorching 83 in 51 balls. He was unstoppable. It was still a substantial total, and Strikers has their work cut out. Umar Gul and Viral Makwana played aggressively and provided a strong start.

But an early collapse of wickets by the eight over Strikers was 68 for the loss of 6 wickets. The chances looked bleak at that point with an ask of 80 runs off 60 balls with four wickets remaining. Hemanth Kaligotla and Anil Dhingra were at the crease and took upon the challenge to continue batting until the last over. They put an unbeaten partnership of 70 runs to take the Strikers home. The last over was a nail-biting finish with 15 needed in 6 balls. Anil Dhingra set the stage by scoring a four off the first ball and two successive doubles in two balls. Seven runs were needed from the last three balls setting the stage for a last-ball six from Hemanth Kaligotla, bringing an end to a very anxious and exciting game of cricket. Strikers won the Eagle ProT20 finals and held on to their title from the prior year.

Interestingly, since the tournament originated, every semi-final and final was a high-voltage drama with the odds equally balanced between the teams at any point throughout the game. The last over always provided an opportunity for heroics from an individual to pull his team home. This excitement is what makes this game so unique and memorable. Cricket runs deep in our DNA; every player gave their last ounce of energy in the field and competed at the highest level. It was great to see a ton of new talent and their firm determination to excel in the game and play competitive cricket.

Eagle Cricket Club especially wants to thank every individual involved in the set-up and breakdown during the game day. The tournament raised $2,667 for O2 support to India, a charity addressing India’s catastrophic pandemic. Our hearts, prayers, and support go out to all the families in India, and we are evaluating more opportunities to support this cause further. We are proud to have created such a tournament and are energized to see its growth over the years.