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The Massachusetts State Cricket League 2011

Saqib Syed

The Massachusetts State Cricket League had its final games for both the 40 overs and 20/20 versions of the game during the last week of September. Both the finals were held at the Franklin Field in Dorchester/Roxbury area in Boston. There was a rain forecast the previous day and it was expected that the MSCL final for the 40 over game on Sunday, Sep 26th will be played on an outfield with thick grass. Even though Cricket has been played in Massachusetts for the last 25 years, MSCL has not been able to do much about the cricket grounds. The number of teams in the league has grown from 11 teams in 1997 to 32 teams in 2011. MSCL has been unable to provide a high quality fields for the playoffs and finals. With the advent of the 20/20 version of the game, it is expected that the game of cricket will be popular in US and hopefully MSCL management will be able to get enough resources from the towns to provide some quality grounds. Having played competitive cricket in India, we learnt our cricket by hitting the ball on the ground which we know is the correct way to bat. The bowlers are supposed to take a wicket or knock you down but with thick outfield grounds in Massachusetts the bowlers can get away by just bowling length, keeping most fielders on the ropes and forcing the batsman to play the ball in the air.

The MSCL final was an anti-climax. Defending champions Commonwealth CC, one of the oldest clubs in the league were expected to give the relatively strong and new team Lagaan CC a good fight but they had saved the worst for this day. Commonwealth CC were bundled out for 79 runs in 27 overs. Accurate bowling by Mahesh Gopalan and Ryan Hurley of Lagaan tied down the Commonwealth batsman after a brisk start provided by Hashim Khan. Lagaan CC scored 80 runs for the loss of 2 wickets in 18 overs and won the game easily. Sharaz Baksh top scored for Lagaan with 40 runs. Mahesh Gopalan was declared man of the match.

It was a defining moment for MSCL since no other teams apart from Commonwealth and Conway had won the MSCL championship before. Lagaan after having earned promotion from Division 2 last year put together a very good team this year hand picking players from different division 1 teams to earn the MSCL division 1 championship this year.

Commonwealth CC came back strongly the following weekend in a revenge match to beat Lagaan in the 20/20 held at the same ground. Commonwealth CC scored 152 for 8 wickets in their allotted 20 overs.  Lagaan had a blistering start with 80 runs for 1 wicket in first 8 overs. Ali (3 wickets) and Qasim bowled well to contain in middle overs; Lagaan needed just 42 in 6 overs with 5 wickets in hand, Fazal Alam bowled match winning spell and taking 3 wickets in 2 overs and Lagaan were all-out for 122 in 19.1 overs. Shan Mohammed top scored for Commonwealth with 57 and Nicholas Stamford was the top scorer for Lagaan with 49.

It is ironical that the same two teams made it to the finals of both the 40 overs and 20 overs versions of the game. There are other teams like Boston Gymkhana, Conway, and Star Cricket club that are competitive teams in the league and you will see a lot of these teams doing better provided there are better grounds. The town of Shrewsbury came up with a good cricket field this year. The town of Wrentham got an additional field this year in addition to the already existing two fields that is home to the Boston Gymkhana team. The 4th Invitational Curry Cup is being held during the weekend of Oct 8th and Oct 15th in Wrentham. Please visit http://www.bostongymkhana.com for updates on the schedule, the teams, and the scores.

While Cricket has been gaining popularity in US primarily due to the advent of the 3 hr 20/20 format. the disappointing thing about cricket in Massachusetts is the lack of youth taking up this sport. There are more youth taking up this sport in states like Texas, New York, Florida, California, and Washington DC. The US Cricket team both in the Under-19 and senior level comprises of members from these states. MSCL hasn't done much to promote cricket amongst the towns and youth. Familiarity of the sport at the town level and amongst the youth will help us build the Future of the sport. On the brighter side, there have been some strong teams and individuals with good vision for the game in the league focusing on these aspects. With a driven MSCL administration supportive of the cause and teams with a purpose to give back to the sport, we can build the game of cricket in Massachusetts and hopefully get some of our youth to play for US in the near future.

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