The USA Under-19 team completed an undefeated week in Florida with a 23-run win over Canada to win the ICC Americas U-19 Division One championship. It's the second time USA has won the tournament title and first since 2005.
"It feels great. It's an honour to captain the side," USA U-19 captain Abhijit Joshi said. Opening batsman Cameron Mirza was named Tournament MVP after leading USA in runs scored at the tournament with 193 and was dismissed only once.
"Coming in to this tournament, my goal was to be the highest run scorer," Mirza said. "I wasn't that; I missed that a bit, and to not get out, so I was pretty close and I'm happy about that." Mirza was beaten by Sacha DeAlwis of the Cayman Islands, who finished with 210 runs at 52.50. However, in the three matches that USA batted second, they bowled out their opponents for first innings totals of 54, 40, and 50, limiting opportunities for Mirza and the rest of USA's lineup to have time at the crease.
Canada medium pacer Manny Aulakh and USA leg-spinner Gurpreet Sandhu were the top wicket-takers in the tournament with 12 wickets each. Sandhu's figures of 5 for 7 against equalled offspinner Abhimanyu Rajp's 5 for 7 against Bermuda in 2005 as the best figures for a USA U-19 bowler.
"It feels amazing. I've been working really hard for this over the years," Sandhu said. "I've been training since I was 11. It's been a dream to represent USA one day. My dream's finally coming true so it feels really amazing."
Much of the credit to USA's success during the week goes to head coach Robin Singh. Despite arriving in Florida with less than 72 hours to prepare for the first match, he has worked at instilling the much-needed focus and in the team.
"I think he's a really good and hard-working coach," Joshi said. "He's not about wasting time. People saw during the games, he worked the 12th, 13th, and 14th man like crazy. He never gave a chance for us to relax. I think that's important."
USA and Canada both qualified from the Americas to join Afghanistan, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kenya, Namibia, Scotland and hosts Ireland for the 2011 U-19 World Cup Global Qualifier from July 28-August 9. USA will be attempting to finish in the top six at that event in order to qualify for a second consecutive ICC U-19 World Cup.
"I think our team is real strong," Joshi said. "We have a lot of talent on our team and all the confidence we get from our coach is real supportive so hopefully we can go a long way."
Peter Della Penna is a journalist based in New Jersey