The QUCA youth team has just returned from a 10 day tour to Trinidad. The team played 6 games against high quality oppositions and while they were winless, the tour as a whole was the most successful one that the academy has undertaken so far.
When youth teams, or any teams for that matter, from non-cricket playing countries tour a cricketing country, the expectations and the measure of success ought to be very different and contextual. According to the QUCA director and head coach George Samuel, to see what the team achieved, we need to “scratch beneath the surface of match results”. The successes of the tour are to be found not in the numbers but in some of the standout team and individual performances and the progress made by individuals in terms of skills and cricketing nous
The QUCA boys trained hard in the cold winter, albeit indoors and tested their mettle in hot, testing conditions, with a challenging schedule against some of the top youth teams in Trinidad. It was heartening to see them take all 10 wickets in most of the games. Going winless into the last game, the coaches feared a general fatigue and probably a lack of enthusiasm as the boys struggled to take a single wicket in the first 30 overs and the opposition sitting pretty at 185. But the QUCA boys showed tremendous resolve to come back from that situation to ultimately get all the wickets for 215 runs. This ability to fight to the end was one of the big successes of the tour.
In their game against the Queens Park Oval team, the top order struggled and chasing about 250 runs, the team was down to 98 for 7 in 20 overs. The lower order showed great courage and determination to stay at the crease for the entire 40 overs. While the team could only reach 152 in the end, the lower order batsmen Ansaar Yasim and Jeremy Samuels played together for close to 18 overs. When the 10 year old Jeremy returned to the pavilion, the applause from the the members at the Queens Park Oval was sight to behold. Assistant coach Lalit Bhatia recalls sitting in the Members Bar and being asked about Jeremey the next afternoon - literally a memorable performance.
Despite being indoors all winter and going into the first game with just one outdoor practice session, the QUCA boys did an exceptional job in the field as well. They chased down the boundaries and backed up the throws. They took all the catches and barely let an overthrow. With every game, the captain Mohammad Shaw took the coaches’ feedback and improved as a leader.
For some players, this was their first tour and their eagerness to learn and improve their game rubbed off on some of the more seasoned team members. They asked for 6:00 am practices and they did not flag when the day and night games went well past 11 in the night.
Talking of Day and Night games: In terms of organization, this was far and away one of the best organized youth tours from the USA. Thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the the QUCA director George Samuel, the team was able to play their games at the Queens Park Oval (the test cricket stadium), the Brain Lara Academy, ( stadium for the last year’s CPL final) and the Diego Martin Stadium, which is a brand new cricket stadium near Port of Spain. Three of the six games were live streamed with 3 cameras and commentary by professional commentators ( For context, the USA national team games in Namibia last month were streamed with only 2 cameras) In addition, four games were played under lights, which was a truly memorable experience. Right from flight arrangements and accommodations to local transportation, meals, handling sickness, etc. the tour was executed flawlessly at a very affordable price for the team. The team also had the services of a local coach and guide who took care of all the minor details like making sure that all the food and water was delivered to games, that we always had at least 3 local players available to join the team, equipment issues etc.
The QUCA management is proud and heartened by the performance of their team and looks forward to many such tours in the coming years.