Cameron Mirza sets USA U-19 record
Cameron Mirza, a 17-year-old born and raised in the suburbs of northern New Jersey, created history on Monday by getting the highest score by a USA Under-19 player. Mirza carried his bat in USA's 285-run win against Argentina on the first day of the ICC Americas U-19 Division One in Florida. He went on to score 118, only the second ton by a USA U-19 player, after Amer Afzaluddin's ton against Argentina U-19 in 2001. The third highest score by a USA U-19 player is Andy Mohammed's 90 against Afghanistan in the 2009 Youth World Cup qualifier, in Toronto.
"It felt great, it was a relief," Mirza said. "I was really excited when the coach told me I was going to open and I just couldn't wait." Mirza scored his century in 125 balls with 10 boundaries before finishing with 12 fours in his knock. It was his first game playing for USA at the U-19 level after previously playing in the U-15 squad at an ICC regional event in Bermuda in 2008.
"I think he [Mirza] fits the bill," Robin Singh, USA's U-19 coach, said. "He's somebody who takes his time and in 50 overs you have a lot of time to play and he fits that role pretty well."
Mirza's mother, who travelled to Florida for the game, is Irish-American while his father immigrated to America from Pakistan. Mirza only started playing cricket four years ago after he saw his father watching a game on TV. Two years later, he became one of the first junior players in America to secure a bat sponsorship deal. He is one of only six American-born players in the current USA U-19 squad.
Mirza is highly rated by current Bangladesh bowling coach Ian Pont. In the last few years, he has travelled to Potchefstroom in South Africa and Mumbai to take part in camps run by Pont.
"[The camps in] India really helped with batting for long periods of time," Mirza said. "[The camps in] South Africa helped me a lot with playing quick bowlers and India was great for spin. They all just chipped in little parts that came together." Mirza has also spent extensive time training in New Jersey at DreamCricket Academy and Indoor Cricket USA, two places that have a fast growing reputation for producing USA U-19 representative players over the last three years.
Mirza had set a personal goal before the start of the tournament to be the highest run-scorer at the end of the week. After the first day, he's in the driver's seat on the leaderboard and could very well achieve that goal. "I'd like to do that every game and I feel like because I did that in the first game, there's expectations now for me to do it again," Mirza said. "I'm confident but I realize its cricket. Anything can happen."
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey