While the Diversity Cup was taking place in the Metro Detroit area, MichCA was represented by a league team at the Unity Cup, organized by the Midwest Cricket Conference in Chicago, and held this year to commemorate the life of Shekhar Aravind, the late President of MWCC. Because so many of MichCA’s top players were involved in the Diversity Cup, the Unity Cup team offered an opportunity for some of the area’s younger and less experienced players. Eleven cricketers represented MichCA in Chicago this weekend, under the management of MCA’s Information Director, the captaincy of MCA Joint Head Coach Shyam Mayasandra, and the Vice Captaincy of MichCA Vice President Pankaj Mahajan. The other members of the team were: Joydeep Singh and Ravi Teja Varma (GRCC), Naresh Kondepati and Sandesh Murali (MDCC), Dawood Zebri and Simar Singh (MPCC), Anurag Yerabati, Ani Mayasandra, and Gordon Makin (MCA and Motown).
This inexperienced team faced what turned out to be the toughest possible opponents in group play: a Chicago youth team which included several USA U-19 players, and the Chicago Bulls (one of MWCC’s Chicago teams, put together by draft). As it turned, MichCA’s opponents would both go all the way to the tournament final, where the Cubs would defeat the Bulls off the last ball of the match, so the MichCA men could with justification conclude that they played in by far the hardest of the four groups.
They entered Saturday’s match with modest hopes of a quarter-final berth (which one good win would probably have guaranteed), and were well set against the Chicago youth team, newly renamed as the Cubs, before Shyam Mayasandra was very narrowly run out on 37. Heavy rain then delayed the match for several hours, and the MichCA team had doubts about the wisdom of continuing when the rain stopped, with bowlers’ run-ups still very wet and the matting wicket itself a possible hazard. However, play continued, and MichCA struggled to 106/9 after 20 overs (Dawood Zebri, 13, and Gordon Makin, 10, the only other batsmen to score in double figures). When MichCA bowled the conditions were very difficult in the field, with several bowlers slipping and fielders finding it hard to keep their feet in the outfield. USA U-19 player Fahad Babar, dropped in the slips in the first over, found it easy to dominate the hesitant bowlers, and brought the Cubs home for the loss of only two wickets with some outstanding stroke play.
Thus, on Sunday morning, MichCA faced a must-win match against the Bulls (victors on Saturday over the Cubs), knowing that only a big win would see them through. That looked a possibility when the Bulls, put in, were 21/3 after seven overs, thanks to excellent opening spells from Ravi Varma (4-1-14-1) and left-armer Sandesh Murali (two wickets), but after that MichCA’s bowling became ragged and many catches went down in the deep. The result was a monster target of 181. Chasing it down looked a possibility with Shyam Mayasandra at the crease: he effortlessly dispatched three balls in the first over across the boundary, to give MichCA 14 off just six balls, but when he was out for 27, the game was, essentially, up, despite 19 from Simar Singh, batting one-down. The seventh wicket partnership between Gordon Makin (20 not out) and Ravi Varma (8 not out) did take the Michiganians into three figures before twenty overs were completed, but the match was long gone by then.
Although the results were disappointing, the experience for the young team seemed positive – the tournament was extremely well organized; the atmosphere was excellent and the welcome very warm; and the quality of cricket high. Discussions are already taking place about teams for next year, and it is hoped that, again, there will be a role for youth cricketers.