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Cricket academy team put to test by New Yorkers

The sun was setting behind the mountains in the backdrop. A chilly evening breeze had picked up pace. And the fledgling team of ten- to fourteen-year-old cricket players from the California Cricket Academy was facing sure defeat against the much stronger New York team where the average age of the players was 15. The final inning of the game was at its end.Ten-year-old Arsh Buch stood in the middle of Dilworth Elementary School's soccer field on Dec. 5th, dressed in the all-white traditional cricket attire, swinging his cricket bat with a gusto and refusing to give up. This was a special moment.Since its inception in July of last year this was the first time, the Cupertino based California Cricket Academy had invited players from out of state for a tournament.

When a strapping youngster from the Big Apple threw a fast-paced ball, young Buch's sent it to the far corner of the field for four points. Then he and his teammates were sneaking in "runs"(a point each), running down the concrete pitch between the two "wickets," while the New York fielders went scurrying after the ball.In the end, however, the team from New York prevailed.But the elementary and middle school students from Cupertino, Sunnyvale and San Jose still congratulated each other, thumping each other's backs with enthusiasm.

"The whole idea behind the tournament was to expose these kids to good players. And the New York team is quite good, and they are much bigger. But I think we were very successful," said Hemant Buch, founder of the academy and father of Arsh."Because of their age, our students were not able to hit the ball as hard as the other guys. But their technique was very good," says Buch. The teams played three games over the Dec, 4th and 5th weekend."Going in, I was a little nervous as the other team guys were very big. Normally I get hurt a lot," said Arch, a fifth-grade student at the Murdock- Portal Elementary School. "The ball hits me everywhere. But today I did not get hurt at all."

Arch who says he wants to be on an Indian cricket team when he grows up won the "Man of the Match" trophy for the final game of the tournament.For most of these students, cricket is a passion passed down from father to son, or it's an interest they pick up while on vacation. Most of the students in the cricket academy are of Indian origin.Vinay Suri, captain of the California team and a freshman at Lynbrook High, said, "This is one sport that I have in common with my dad and younger brother and it has brought us a lot closer. We talk a lot about it and we practice bowling and batting at home during weekdays. Vinay won the best batsman trophy for one of the games

For others like Jaron Kilfoyle, 10, who hails from Australia, it is all about being better than his cousins when he goes back to his homeland for a vacation.Sunnyvale resident Akash Jagannathan, 12, who earned a best bowler award said "I play basketball and soccer, too. I enjoy them all. But cricket has taught me how to be a team player. He says away games are like vacations. Since the beginning of this year, the students have played matches in LA, Chicago and Canada.In an effort to popularize the game among mainstream American children, the academy is working with the Cupertino Union School District to take cricket to its schools. The Dilworth School ground is now the academy's official training base and a permanent concrete pitch (cricket field) has been laid in the middle of the field for this purpose.

Updated 05/10/2012 13:08:36