Team USA Over 60 Cricket World Cup Daily Blog – Days 3-5 – All Cricket!Sankar Jayram
Day 3: First day of cricket on an Australian pitch. We were scheduled to play a warm-up practice match against our frenemies from the North – Canada. It was exciting to participate in a Team USA game, even in a practice match, on a cricketing ground in a traditional cricketing nation. Having played multiple games against Canada in March in Houston, the arrival at the venue felt more like friends greeting each other than two teams squaring each other up and going in to battle for the World Cup over the next two weeks.
The locker room and buildings were interestingly a bit old. I guess Team USA is used to the modern facilities at Moosa Stadium which has only been in existence for a few years, whereas the decades old facilities at Maroochydore Cricket Club boast of a heritage that has seen many cricketing greats in the locker rooms.
The two captains agreed to bend the rules for this match to allow as many players as possible to participate and get used to the Australian conditions. Mihir, captaining in the absence of Janak, lost the toss and Canada elected to bat. The goal of giving everyone an opportunity to experience the Australian conditions was achieved with almost everyone getting a chance to bowl or bat or both. Takeaway – these grounds and conditions are way different than what we are all used to and it is going to take a lot of patient batting to put up a winning score.
Day 4: Playing the practice game against Canada reminded everyone of the level of cricket and competition in a World Cup and the next two days saw intense practices and serious commitment from the squad. Mihir and Masood (vice-cap) met with Dash and Wayne, the two professional coaches in the team to put together a training/practice plan and suddenly the group of individuals from various corners of the USA started to look like a cohesive team.
The two coaches were merciless. They are used to coaching kids in the 10-15 age group. They used the same training and coaching techniques on the Over 60 squad – disregarding the fact that it has been 45-50 years since any of us were that young. Catch after catch, ground fielding and sudden catches, reflex training and eye hand coordination, … Coach Wayne trained half the team for what seemed an eternity (in this case, eternity was 60 minutes). At the other end of the ground, Coach Dash had the other half of the team working on techniques of survival in Australian cricket conditions – front foot, straight bat, … instructions were being drilled into the batsmen while they were giving throw downs to each other. At the end of this hour long session, the two tired groups got back together and started heading to the parking lot – but wait…the coaches had other plans. It was back to the nets for a full nets session with three parallel nets for another hour! The tired bunch headed back to the hotel and then got into a conference room to discuss and plan out bowling and fielding strategies! Things were definitely getting serious.
Day 5: Increased intensity! 2 hours of intense nets for everyone. This time in a turf wicket facility that is similar to the grounds we are going to play on. At the end of the two hour session, Coach Wayne took half the team aside (the half that was not put through the wringer yesterday). The other half of the team that had already trained with Wayne the previous day, was trying to stay low and not attract attention when Coach Dash’s booming voice dragged us back to the center of the ground for practicing running between the wickets. After the practice, and a couple of tiny pizza slices (we are used to much larger slices in the USA), it was time to head back to the hotel and straight to a conference room for batting strategy discussions.
On the way back from practice, I asked Kirit an innocent sounding question – “what is your professional background?” Somewhere in the 45 year professional history discussion, I heard the word “engineer” – SOLD! Kirit was immediately tagged/volunteered to be the additional digital person (Bharat had already volunteered to be the photographer). Team USA now has a Digital Media Team. That’s what happens when you give me the role of Media “Manager” – I will find people to manage :). Kirit and I had to go and attend the “Digital” meeting of the CWC organization in the afternoon. Although it looks like we were goofing off with the Canadian team, we were really working.
Tomorrow is the opening ceremony and the official start of the World Cup!