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Scintillating Matches Yield Same Winner

June 2006
Scintillating Matches Yield Same Winner

GT Playboys defeat UCF Eagles in 8th Annual Future Tech Vibha Cricket Cup

The 8th Annual Future Tech Vibha Cricket Cup began on the last weekend of April, a week before their usual early May start. With the schedule change and cooler, dryer weather, the tournament had a slightly different feel to it. Vibha has a number of projects in India they raise funds for and a number of events they organize, but none of them seem as much fun to organize, watch or participate as the cricket tournament every spring. Week 1 of the tournament saw about 27 first and second round games being played and for the most part, the rain stayed away and the usual suspects, except for the Blue Panthers, sailed through. The former champs were missing some strong players and they just couldn't bring their A game to this increasingly spirited competition.

The clear highlight of the first day was when Syed Abid Ali, star test cricketer from Hyderabad, made an appearance as the chief guest to officially open the tournament. As part of the proceedings, he unfurled the official T-shirt, batted for a bit, as some of the participants took turns to bowl to this Indian all-rounder who has played 29 Tests and also opened India's bowling attack in the inaugural World Cup in 1975. Mr. Ali may be advancing in years but at the age of 65, he showed that class is permanent as he stroked a few wonderful cover drives and pulled the ball with ease. Abid Ali said that through programs such as Vibha, one could help the sportsman of the next generation. Mr.Abid Ali mingled with the crowd, signed autographs and posed for photos with volunteers and players.

After a 2-week hiatus, the tournament resumed with the two finalists from last year, Chattanooga and GT Playboys. The winner had to play a minimum of 5 games, and with no first round byes. This meant a total of 6 games for each finalist. Both of them showed they meant business as they mowed through their first 2 rounds comfortably.

Meanwhile, the other top teams – Alpharetta Monsters, Purple Bulls, Martins Maniacs and Rebels United – did their part and got to the quarter finals by defeating teams like the Hitmen, GPCC, Marietta Mayhem and the Atlanta Warriors. Some of these games, like the one between Rebels United and GPCC, were unexpectedly strong match-ups. With Jigin Patel as the captain, the relatively unknown GPCC displayed grit and talent to destroy Andy's 1, their 2nd round opponent. Another good game ended with the seasoned Purple Bulls on top when they beat Marietta Mayhem. Aroop, who batted for Marietta Mayhen, was rewarded the Tournament's Best Batsman Award for scoring 123 runs

The Alpharetta Monsters survived a very shaky start, having lost their first 5 wickets for less than 15 runs, thanks to some steady batting by Amit and Naushad and then some cameo hitting by Sirish. Sanjay Narla, their mercurial captain, bowled a superb line and staked his claim for the Bowler of the Tournament trophy. And Naushad was magical behind the stumps as they defended their 66 easily and dismissed the surprising quarter-finalists Waterside Yachts.

All facets of UCF Eagle's game – batting, bowling and fielding were clicking, as they won each match with great efficiency. UCF Eagles easily beat their opponents, Martins Maniacs and Alpharetta Monsters. Snajeev, their best player, showed his class as he scored 20 runs in one over against the Monsters and was rightfully voted the Player of Tournament.

The Titans of Chattanooga, a crowd favorite, decided to merge with another popular team from Cleveland. But the combination couldn't get past the Georgia Tigers led by Parthy, who said that he had expected to win all along. The Purple Bulls, however, showed they had the better team and experience as they beat the Tigers to get to the semifinals and the unenviable task of facing the Playboys. Getting the mandatory close game out of the way seemed to have given the Playboys a shot in the arm. The Playboy team seemed to grow in confidence and they didn't even need their usual batsman – Nimir, Ambrish and Ganesh – in demolishing the Purple Bulls en route the finals match up between the two University Teams – GT Playboys and UCF Eagles. The Eagles mustered only 61 runs with great bowling by Playboy's bowlers, Amogh and Deepak. However, strong batting by Nimin and Vijay from the Playboys sealed the deal, and Nimin won the Man of the Finals Award. The Playboys beat the Eagles by 7 wickets.

An interview of Syed Abid Ali

by Mallick Huggahalli.

Syed Abid Ali, a star test cricketer from Hyderabad, was in Atlanta recently. He had flown in from California to be the chief guest at the opening ceremony of this year's Future Tech Vibha Cricket Cup. Abid Ali had played for India for more than a decade in 29 Test Matches and 5 ODIs. He was India's opening bowler for a long time and has faced great bowlers like Andy Roberts without fear (or a helmet for that matter!). A very grounded, classy gentleman sat down to chat with some volunteers from Vibha about his experiences and how he has stayed actively involved at the age of 65. Along with his son and brother-in-law, he is looking to start a cricket coaching institute for underprivileged children in India. "I feel with events like this cricket tournament, we raise awareness and funds for wonderful projects that help educate tomorrow's leaders," he said at one point, adding, "These young kids in India who otherwise would not have opportunities, stand a chance to achieve things in their lives."

How are you keeping yourself involved in the game these days?

In the last decade or so, I have been very active in the coaching circles. I have coached the Andhra team and achieved great results in Ranjit Trophy. One of my pupils, Venugopal Rao, is currently on the Indian ODI team in the West Indies. He is a great talent and it warms my heart to see him achieve his potential. I have also coached the UAE team and we achieved some good results in the ‘90s. Given some more time, I feel I could have made them into more of a threat to the Test playing countries. I'm very involved in the Bay Area cricketing circles and still keep my connections with old friends like Bishen Singh Bedi, EAS Prasanna and of course my brother-in-law Syed Kirmani. We reminisce and talk cricket all the time.

What can you tell us about your experiences in the game? What was your greatest moment?

Oh there were so many great moments. But none as great as my debut test. It is a feeling you can't describe, when you put your India cap and jersey on for the first time – as I did in Adelaide against Australia in 1967. Then again, one of my proudest achievements was getting Sobers and Kanhai out off consecutive balls in the 1970-71 series – the last time we won a series over there. Playing in the first World Cup was a thrill too, but it was so different then. We didn't have the computer technology and scouting we have today. We just suited up and played. I was also part of some crazy games – like the infamous inning in which we were bowled out for 42 by England in 1974. That was probably my lowest moment.

Any thoughts on the current Indian team and their chances in the upcoming World Cup?

The team is a confident unit these days. I think picking Chappell [as the coach] was a great decision. He is not one to mince words. He will say and do what he feels should be done. He and Dravid have gelled very well. Dravid is an outstanding leader who says and does the right things. He leads from the front. We are definitely in good hands. We have a good blend of youth and experience and that should help us peak for the World Cup. It is good that the team is touring the Caribbean a year ahead of the World Cup. They will get a feel for the environment and that should definitely help.

Do you think Ganguly's career is over? And what about Tendulkar?

Saurav [Ganguly] has had his time. A wonderful motivator and leader. He has contributed a lot to India in the last decade and this team and Dravid owe a lot to him. However, I think the game has passed him. His fielding and batting against fast bowers were always suspect, and those things are very important today. I don't see him coming back. Sachin [Tendulkar], on the other hand, needs to get healthy. After 16 years in the game, the body starts to rebel. A little rest will help his body and mind. He is not done. He should get to 15000 Test runs and 40 centuries.

-- Mallick Huggahalli

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