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they will move one step closer to accomplishing something the men’s team has never done: qualify for a World Cup.

Pic (Right): Batsman Nadia Gruny comes down the track during a USA Women’s Team practice session at Gateway Park in Brooklyn, NY. Captain Durga Das watches on from behind the stumps. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna]

USA will be playing a set of 50-over matches at Maple Leaf CC beginning on Tuesday and continuing on Wednesday and Friday.   The winner will move on to play in the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh next year for a chance to be in the 2013 ICC Women’s World Cup in India. Canada and USA will be playing for the right to be the Americas Region representative in next year’s ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier tournament after the two teams finished as the winner and runner-up respectively at the ICC Americas Women’s Tournament last year in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“My hope and belief is that this team as I see it, when we win this game, when we win this tournament, is gonna take us all the way up to the World Cup,” said USA captain Durga Das after a team practice session in New York over the weekend. “That’s what I’ve been telling the girls. We have the ability to do it and I think that will put America on the map as far as cricket goes. Not women’s or men’s, cricket goes. This is the first time we’re even in the qualifier. It’s the second year we’re playing cricket and if we show them what we’ve got, I think we’ll have people sit up and notice us. I think it’s a very proud moment for all of us first of all to be here. I think we’re all very motivated to play and win for the country.”

While players from the New York and New Jersey area have been practicing together regularly since June’s USACA Women’s National Tournament, Friday marked the first time that players from the west coast were able to join them as they flew in for two days of training before the team set off together on Sunday for Toronto. It means that the squad does not have a tremendous amount of chemistry or experience playing together, especially since there are only two players returning from the squad that played in the Americas tournament a year ago in Florida: Doris Francis and Candacy Atkins, both of whom previously represented the West Indies.

“While we only had two players from this team in last year’s tournament, if you look at the team and look at the players, there are players who played national level in their countries so that’s a lot of experience they bring to the table,” said Das. “As a combined unit, yeah of course we don’t. This is the second year of us playing.”

Pic (Right):  USA player-coach Indomatie Goordial-John bowls during a USA Women’s Team practice session at Gateway Park in Brooklyn, NY. [Picture courtesy: Peter Della Penna]

Das and Rajashree Mahale recounted a story of how they were both selected to play for India in 1987, but never played when their series against South Africa was canceled due to the Indian government’s opposition to apartheid. Indomatie Goordial-John, the highest run-scorer at the USACA Women’s National Tournament, also has played for the West Indies.

Goordial-John will have a big responsibility on her hands after USACA opted to make her a player-coach rather than appoint a coach from one of the five teams that played in the national tournament to be in charge of the USA women. On June 22, a letter was written by Atkins to the entire USACA board requesting that the North East Region champion management team comprised of coach Linden Fraser and trainer Basil Butcher Jr., be supplied for the team. The letter was endorsed by Goordial-John and three other teammates.

Victor Benjamin, who was part of the USA U-19 World Cup management team in New Zealand this past January, was selected as a trainer. However, Goordial-John was appointed coach after filling the same role for the team last year. She is a WICB Level I certified coach. Initially, Goordial-John was not eligible to play in the series in Canada as she was three days short of the residency cutoff date. However, she confirmed on Friday she will be playing as USACA’s appeal to the ICC for a special waiver was granted.

Another piece of news to come out of the practice session on Friday was that two of the players who were named by USACA in the original squad of 14 will not be touring. According to Team Manager Louise Brown-Jackson, herself one of the players on the six-player reserve list, Catherine Joy Jones and Bushra Ali were replaced by Erica Rendler and Mahale. Sources with knowledge of the situation have indicated that Jones and Ali could not secure visas to be able to travel to Canada and return to the USA. The 44-year-old Mahale was not in the six-player reserve list named with the rest of the squad on June 12 by USACA and was brought in ahead of 16-year-old Shebani Bhaskar, an American-born player who was on the reserve list. On June 17, Bhaskar scored 103 playing for a Tamil Nadu U-16 side during an inter-state women’s tournament in India yet was overlooked for a spot to play for USA. There are at least four players in the USA squad that are over the age of 40 while there are at least five players in the squad under the age of 30, including the 24-year-old Goordial-John.

Putting these things aside, Goodial-John has been trying to get the team focused on winning, something she wants very badly.

“Winning is our number one priority and winning to represent this region at the World Cup Qualifiers, the region as in Americas, is the biggest thing that we can imagine,” said Goordial-John.

Das also sees this tournament as a chance to help grow the profile of women’s cricket in this country. If the women can win and advance to the next phase of qualifying, it will give USACA a good reason to invest more in women’s cricket development.

“I’m just very happy and very proud to be with this team and I’m really proud that we have women’s cricket starting here,” said Das. “I wish it had started 10 years ago when I would’ve been a little younger but glad to see it going now. I’m just hoping that this tournament and what we do will help us raise money to really take women’s cricket to all the schools in the country and get younger players out there, get more and more of them because you can’t expect the older people to keep playing forever.”

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