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Women’s Cricket in San Jose a Hit!

Two teams came together to participate in the first-ever inter-league cricket tournament held in the USA for women. They played Twenty20 matches both Saturday and Sunday.

The guest team, Chargers, came down from the Seattle area to meet the local Firebirds in the heat. Even though the Chargers may not have been accustomed to the heat, they were the more experienced team which proved to be key in the outcome.

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The NWCL Chargers

The Firebirds are a newly formed team, having only been together for less than two months. But with their enthusiastic and dedicated energy, they have turned themselves into a respectable team. Raj Padhi, their coach/mentor as well as the Western Region Director for USA Cricket Association, is proud of how far these players have come. “Many did not know how to hold a cricket bat when this program was launched in the first week of May. Yet here they are, playing a two day series of matches. It’s more than I ever expected in such a short time,” Padhi said at the end of the weekend.

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The BACA Firebirds

Match Summaries

Match 1 (Jun 27, 2009):

It was a nice cool morning but was supposed to hit 95 degrees later in the day. Nadia Gruny, Captain of brand new women’s cricket team BACA Firebirds, won the toss and elected to field first against the tested and experienced NWCL Chargers. Yogita and Vidya provided a solid foundation for the Chargers scoring run a ball. Nadia struck the first blow for Firebirds when she had Yogita (15) caught behind by Cassandra. But in came Priya Ghate, the Captain of NWCL Chargers. She started hitting the ball to all corners of the field at will. Earlier, Nandini Subramanian of Firebirds had ended up with a bad thigh injury and didn’t look good to take the field. But her enthusiasm and fighting spirit got the best out of her. She stepped in to bowl and turned out to be the best bowler for Firebirds on this day grabbing two beautiful catches of her own bowling. NWCL notched up a score of 130 in 20 overs. Priya (33) was the highest scorer for Chargers. Vidya (16), Su (11) and Pallavi (10) provided good support. Firebirds, who were playing their first ever match at any level, showed tremendous character in restricting Chargers to a chaseable score.

Firebirds inning started disastrously when they lost Ritu in the first over through a run out.. Sheila, Nadia, Cassandra and Rajashree showed some resistance during their short inning but no one was able to carry on to get a bigger score. But the Firebirds were able to bat out all the 20 overs and eventually fell short by 30 runs. Su was the best bowler for Chargers grabbing three wickets. Priya helped herself with two wickets.

Match 2 (Jun 28, 2009):

The weather was going to be worse than the first day. BACA was already short of two of their good players who got injured with previous day’s activity. Nadia Gruny again won the toss and elected to field first. The experienced openers of NWCL again got them off to a flying start. There was no looking back from then on. The Chargers went on to score 156 runs for 4 wickets from 20 overs. Yogita lead the way scoring 24. Su, Vidya and Vani provided support scoring 23, 19 and 17 respectively. Yet again, Nandini was the best bowler for Firebirds grabbing two wickets for 33 runs. At one point, Nandini created some tense moments in Chargers camp when she was on a hat-trick. None of the other bowlers from Firebirds were as effective. Nadia, Sheila and Ritu were the standout fielders for Firebirds on both days.

Chasing 157 for a victory, Sheila & Ritu went in to open the inning. Sheila was unlucky as she scooped the first fair ball of the inning to the point region for an easy catch. Nadia & Ritu stepped up and consolidated the inning and looked all set to take Firebirds to a victory. But Nadia who was playing beautifully ended up miscuing a pull shot and was caught brilliantly by Su who made the catch look fairly easy. Nadia had scored 26 which turned out to be the highest individual score for either side in this match. Rajashree tried to rebuild the inning with Ritu. But the asking rate kept climbing forcing Firebirds batters to take chances thereby losing wickets at regular intervals. Firebirds were able to better their score from first day scoring 124 for 6 in 20 overs.

Having swept the tournament, the Chargers were elated. “Both matches were really competitive and well played” stated Priya Ghate, Chargers captain. “The Firebirds have made amazing progress given the fact that it’s a relatively new team. I’m sure the experience gained this past weekend will help both teams to sharpen their skills even more.”

Ghate, the most experienced player as well as captain of the Chargers, was awarded Player of the Match for her performance on Saturday. She scored 33 runs and followed it up with two wickets.

Yogita Manghnani won Sunday’s Player of the Match award by scoring 24 while batting and giving away only 11 runs in 4 overs while bowling. Combining this with her all-round performance in batting, bowling and fielding the previous day, she was then awarded the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

Nadia Gruny, captain of Firebirds was the best fielder of the tournament effecting two run outs and taking two catches one of which was a superb one at square less to a ball hit right off the middle.

The women were all honored at a dinner at Taj Palace where the USA Cricket Association’s second Vice-President and Director of Cricket Operations, Mr. Sheikh Manaf Mohamed, congratulated both teams for their fine performances. He particularly praised the work done by the Firebirds and their coach for the efforts made to get them to this point in such a short time. “We need players from this region to work hard to qualify for our national team where they can represent the whole USA on the international cricket scene.” He then presented each player with certificates to honor their role in elevating women’s cricket on the west coast to such a powerful level.

Thanks were also given to the various sponsors of this activity. In particular

  • to Taj Palace for providing all the food during the weekend as well as the venue for the dinner
  • to the San Jose Cricket Group for providing grounds
  • to Bay Area Cricket Alliance for providing equipment to the Firebirds & Chargers
  • to Jiminy StitchIt for imprinting the Firebirds team shirts
  • to Geetika Pattjoshi of iGurukul for providing wonderful dance entertainment at the dinner

Nabeel Ahmed, USA Cricket Association’s first Vice-President, called to praise the activity. Even though he was not able to attend, over the phone he said he “looks forward to meeting all the players in future events as they progress the women’s effort in the USA.” He specially gave many kudos to Raj Padhi for his dedicated work in forming the first women’s team in California that plays with a regular seasoned ball.

The Firebirds were still very happy with their performance. “Congratulations to both Firebirds and Chargers for making the tournament a success. This tournament represents a giant leap for women’s cricket in the US and hopefully it will serve as a catalyst for more inter-league tournaments throughout the country” stated Nadia Gruny, the Firebirds captain. Looking forward to a repeat match-up when the Firebirds travel to Seattle later this year, Gruny went on to say “I am confident that we will reverse the results when we visit Seattle as well as move on to compete at the national level.”

Pictures from the tournament can be found at http://picasaweb.google.com/bacapics/2009BACAPacificCoastWomenSInvitatio…

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