Youth team breaks new barriers September 19, 2007

USA Under-15s to tour India

An official US Under-15 side will be heading to India in December 2007 for the first overseas tour by a US junior side to a major Test-playing nation.

The US team was selected strictly on the basis of player performances in the 2007 US National Junior Championships. Three top players from the Under-13 national championship squads were selected to give them exposure for future leadership at the Under-15 level in 2008 and beyond. The rest were drawn from the top performers in the U-15 Nationals, and include players from all across the USA.

The US squad will face a gruelling schedule. A dozen or more matches are to be played over a two-week period, with fixtures scheduled every day except Christmas and New Year. There are many Indian junior teams which want to take on the USA squad, which explains the tightly packed schedule. If the US team can survive this ordeal by fire, it will be another measure of their resilience under challenging circumstances - and a test of how far the US juniors have come in two short years.

According to Hemant Buch, president of the California Cricket Academy, the India tour would not have been possible without the support of major sponsors who have contributed funds and program support for Academy activities.

Buch named the Keypoint Credit Union, the largest mortgage and insurance firm in the USA, and quoted from a letter he received from its CEO: "We support the introduction of the exciting sport of cricket to the youth of our community. Working with the leadership of [your] organisation has been a pleasure."

He also mentioned the G1G travel and auto-insurance group, whose CEO Zain Jeewanji personally called Cricinfo to express his support for the Academy and its programs.

One secret of the Academy's success is its capacity to draw in enthusiastic sponsors for its programs and plans. There are no less than two dozen sponsors, major and minor, who regularly donate in cash as well as in kind. There are also over 200 well-heeled and enthusiastic volunteers who donate time and money to the Academy's programs.

When one considers that up to $200,000 could be needed to cover the expenses of a single four-week tour to an overseas destination, and a tournament like the US Junior Nationals took up about 900 hours of volunteer time, the strength of the Academy's community support becomes apparent.

Contrast this with the USACA. It has not acquired a single major sponsor in over a decade, and relies solely on outside funding for any activity it undertakes.

Meanwhile, just about everybody connected with US junior cricket is operating in a fast forward mode. There is talk about a quadrangular U-15 tournament in Australia, where the Aussies will play host to teams from the USA, India, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. India is considering a return engagement for the Air-India Cup on US soil. Talks have taken place on an U-17 tour of England under MCC sponsorship, and Windies have expressed interest in exchange tours and visits with North America.

Brave dreams and ambitious goals. Impossible? Hardly. Not after the 2007 US Nationals, the largest ever tournament held in the USA. That kind of track record should silence the nay-sayers and the sceptics. At least, one can hope so.

Deb K Das is Cricinfo's correspondent in the USA