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ShaheenXI-2 Picks Up The Champion 'Paradise Trophy' In The "AllStar Premier” Cricket League

Tahir Ali

Cricket whether its played with hard ball, hard tennis or even taped ball and even whether its played in a vacant parking lot, baseball field or actual cricket ground it is fun. Cricket has become a popular sport in USA, especially in Massachusetts and catching on in New England. There are many leagues that have evolved over the years, to name a few: MCL, NECA, FCL, WCL and recently "All Star Premier" league of Woonsocket RI. Many of the same teams usually participate in all of the leagues. The growing interests in cricket here in Massachusetts is such that some of the teams had to split into two or more teams to accommodate all its players, case in point;  eClinic Works,  ShaheenXI, Mathworks, NECC became NECC Lions and NECC Tigers, and LLC  became Legacy Lions,  Legacy Tigers and reportedly forming a third team Legacy Leopards. NECA is mainly run by Ganesh(MathWorks), Raghu and Ujwal(eCW) and other board members, FCL this year is run by Guru(Willow Geeks), Zakir Ali(ShaheenXI-2) and Sherya(Worcester Speedsters). The All Star Premier League is run by Srinivas Mukunda, Naren Kuppili, Baghath Siddi, Raghav Kalapatapu and Kranthi Kumar. 

Srinivas Mukunda and his team hosted its inaugural T20 cricket "All Star Premier" tournament in Woonsocket, RI. The Valley Breeze newspaper covered the finals of September 9, 2018 where ShaheenXI-2 lifted the Champion 'Paradise' Trophy.  Srinivas in response to the question from the reporter - wanting to know what made him take upon this task -  proudly summed it up in one sentence: "make the cricket dream alive for all of us". The tournament was enjoyable to all who participated as per some of the comments: "well planned and executed" - Ezhilmaran of CSK. Alden of Grafton Team: " very well organized and all games were played in such great spirits. It was real sportsmanship and beauty of cricket." "We look forward to play again next year." Irfan and Ahmed of ShaheenXI.

Indeed it was a great tournament, whomever I talked to had a good time. The organizers were a good host. There was, however, some uniqueness in this tournament.  Every game had a neutral umpire, most of the time provided by All Star players. The tournament fees was not that much. The hosts provided the field, the balls, water and Gaterades. And at the finals the players were treated with Biryani coutesy of Paradise Biryani Pointe of RI. The turfed ground was built just right. ShaheenXI-2 and Sun Risers made it to the finals. 

Paradise Trophy Ceremony:  Srinivas presided over the ceremony. The Champion 'Paradise' Trophy went to ShaheenXI-2. The Runners up trophy went to Sun Risers. Best Bowling trophy was shared between Sun Risers Bharat Matcha and ShaheenXI's Abid Hussain, Man of the series award went to Khurram Ali of ShaheenXI,  MOM of the final match went to ShaheenXI's Asif Hirani. The best batsmen award went to Suresh Kumar (CSK).  Srinivas indicated, "there is a special Man of the Match trophy that will be awarded  to Tahir Ali who fully participates fittingly and plays good cricket even at the age of 70. He is indeed an inspiration to all of us."

Highlights of  the Final Match: We made it to the Finals and played against Sun Risers.  Eight year old Bilal Ali was given the honors to toss the coin up in the air. The Sun Riser’s captain had learnt two facts about ShaheenXI during the tournament – one if I called it I will win the toss and two we will opt for fielding as we were good at chasing - so he called it and he won the toss and in a heart beat decided to chase.

The opening partnership between ShaheenXI did not last long, ace batsmen and highest scorer of the series Mukarram Hussain was run out for 11 runs. Ahmed soon followed. The score got a boost from Asif Hirani's 19 runs off 11 balls that included a boundary and 3 sixes. Siddique added another 15 runs that included a boundary and one six. Then Khurram did his magic again, 30 runs off 20 balls (a boundary and 3 sixes). ShaheenXI-2 managed to score 109 after losing 9 wickets, on the outset a high score, but not really because in retrospect, the same team met our target of 124 easily with a few wickets to spare during regular games.

This year's Pilgrim Qaseem took a difficult catch of their opener Ganga Prasad early on. [Ganga Prasad in a match of 8/18/18 had scored 32 runs against us]. Qaseem contributed his agility to his light headed shaved head (Shaving head is a ritual of Hajj). Kush Naik who scored 50 runs in an earlier match of 8/18  wasn't much happy when Zakir dismissed him for 4 runs. Superb wicket  keeping by Dr. Iftikhar Khan who took 3 catches plus a quick stump to his credit. We discovered that the doctor who was on call all night was as passionate for cricket as he was with his patients - we just hope he did not leave one of his patient on the operating table before scrambling here. A nail biting finish resulted in ShaheenXI-2 winning by 17 runs.  

But the victory walk for ShaheenXI started way back....

Semi-Finals:  Earlier on Sunday 9/9/2018 we faced CSK in the semi-finals at 7:30 AM, a rather unseasonable chilly morning. I won the toss and decided to field. CSK first dismissal came in the first over by Zakir. The second wicket of Kumaresan also fell to Zakir in his second over, closely followed by Suresh Kumar again by Zakir Ali. That alone makes Zakir the MVP- because Kumaresan on 8/25 against Shaheen had scored an unbeaten 32 runs and Suresh Kumar made 53 runs. With ace batsmen out early, CSK played under pressure, but with the help from Ezhilmaran, Santhosh Kumar and Kumaran, CSK managed to get up to 74 in 20 overs. The only player still at the crease was Irfan while all his comrades were making a cameo appearance only. CSK had put the right pressure on with the help of Santhosh and Rajeshwaran who were knocking out players like 9 pins in a bowling alley. Khurram went in with a vengeance and racked up much needed 18 runs hence placing Shaheen back into the game. ShaheenXI got to the point where only 6 runs were needed to win in 16 balls. Zakir and Qaseem took care of that and on the 18.7 over Qaseem hit the winning boundary.  It was still cold but the victory gave us a warm feeling. 

Quarter Finals: A day earlier on Saturday 9/8/18, we played the Quarter Finals with the All Stars CC. I won the toss and as always decided to field first. Atif Rao ran from deep mid wicket to long corner to make a difficult catch. Great catches by Saqib Zulfiqar, who to his credit in an earlier game had 44 runs that included 5 sixes.Wicket keeper Dr Iftikar Khan took 3 catches. Fine bowling by Sajjad Shah who took 4 wickets in  2.2 overs giving only 8 runs.  All Star's Sudheer Mandaven and Sreeram Pavani kept the Shaheens' on their toes with their precise batting strokes. Sudheer stayed on the pitch with an unbeaten 35 runs, and later Sreeram's bowling gave only 9 runs in 3 overs holding Shaheen at bay. Bowlers Srinivas, Kenny, Vinod (1 wicket) and Raghavendra (2 wickets) were making it a challenge for the Shaheen players to maintain the required run rate. Shaheen batted well starting with a great opening partnership between Mukarram and Irfan.  Mukarram's 44 runs included 3 sixes. ShaheenXI crossed the required target in 15.1 overs.  

Yes. We are the champions!!!

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