Western Canadian U-25 Tournament


Iain Dixon


The British Columbia perspective - Iain Dixon

The fifth annual Western Canadian U-25 tournament was held in Edmonton from May 17 to May 29. Begun in 1999 as a development tournament for the Western provinces, this year's tournament featured B.C., Alberta, Alberta "A" and Manitoba. Edmonton has two major cricket grounds, Victoria Park and Mill Woods. Both are blessed with great outfields and matting on shale wickets. Unfortunately, Edmonton in May is not the warmest place in Canada and the tournament commenced this year in snow and hail. Fortunately, by the Monday the weather was cooperating and the tournament completed in warm sunshine.

The tournament has a round robin format in which each team plays the others once. The Saturday games featured Alberta "A" taking on B.C. at Mill Woods and Manitoba playing Alberta at Victoria Park.

At Mill Woods B.C. elected to bat first and struggled to make 178 in the miserable conditions. B.C.'s innings featured a robust 48 from Sajiv Fernando and a measured 33 from David McGowan. The pick of the Alberta "A" bowlers were Alan Alfonso and Ravinder Sidhu, each of whom captured 3 for 31. With a small total to chase B.C. would have to bowl well, and they did. Alberta "A" were dismissed for 99, Alan Alfonso making the only major score with 48. B.C. paceman Simon Upton was the best of the B.C. bowlers with 6 for 34, ably supported by left arm spinner Kevin Sandher who took 2 for 10.

At Victoria Park, Manitoba elected to bat first and made 190, with Damian Mills contributing a solid 70 odd. Unfortunately the Manitoba bowling was no match for the Alberta batting and they cruised to a 6 wicket win, Damian Persaud top scoring for Alberta.

Sunday dawned clearer, less windy, and a bit warmer for games between Manitoba and B.C. at Victoria Park and the all Alberta clash at Mill Woods. At Victoria Park, B.C. once again won the toss and elected to bat. Manitoba had brought an inexperienced team and it showed when they bowled at B.C. Paced by a brilliant 115 from Canadian U-19 batsman Hensen Fernandes, and a solid 59 from Jonathan Snow, B.C. amassed 293 in their fifty overs. A very big score even by the standards of the relatively small Victoria Park ground. The only Manitoba bowler to hold his own was the 15 year old Vijayan, who took 3 for 38 in nine overs bowling off breaks. Facing such a big total Manitoba needed a huge knock from their star batsman Damian Mills, unfortunately for Manitoba Mills fell early to Simon Upton and the game was effectively finished. Canadian spinner Kevin Sandher was too much for the inexperienced Manitoba batting as he finished with 5 for 16 and Upton bagged 2 for 26. The only real resistance from Manitoba came from Joe Lovelace who managed 39 out of the final total of 90.

At Mill Woods Alberta got past Alberta "A" in a game which featured quite a few runs and not many wickets. Alfonso again got runs for Alberta "A" and wicket keeper Gupta made 91 for Alberta.

Those results set up the game at Victoria Park on Monday between B.C. and Alberta as the final. The weather was much better this day and you almost felt like it was a cricket match instead of some bizarre version of ice hockey. While the final was played at Victoria Park, Manitoba played Alberta "A" for the wooden spoon. In a match in which it couldn't have been any fun to be a bowler,Alberta "A" made 283 batting first, Alfonso again being the top scorer. In reply a game Manitoba team managed 270 led by a Damian Mills century.

At Victoria Park, B.C. skipper David McGowan won his third toss in a row and again decided to bat. It didn't look like a good decision early on as Benjamin departed first ball, LBW, to Salman Choudhary. That wicket was quickly followed by those of Fernandes and Fernando as B.C. succumbed to an excellent early spell from Choudhary and Grant Broadhurst. At 14 for 3 B.C. were in serious trouble and Alberta had a firm grip on the game. However, David McGowan and Kevin Sandher set about rebuilding the innings and despite not scoring quickly they succeeded in stemming the flow of wickets. Jaidad was especially effective for Alberta during this period as he bowled his 10 overs on the trot for a mere 19 runs. By the 33rd over B.C. had struggled up to 114 and back into the game. Trying to force the pace McGowan (44) was easily stumped off of the occasional spin of Damian Persaud and replaced by Jonathan Snow. Snow and Sandher began to clip the runs along by dispatching the bad balls and taking some excellent singles. Snow fell with the score at 157, and 10 overs to go, attempting a big hit across the line. With wickets in hand the hit was fully on for B.C. by this stage and each of the batsmen attempted to get the score moving. By and large they succeeded, especially Kevin Sandher who reached his hundred in the 50th over with a few sweetly struck sixes into the leg side boundaries. B.C.'s final total was a useful 227 after a quite brilliant fight back by Sandher and McGowan. The best of the Alberta bowlers, apart from Jaidad, were Choudhary with 2 for 31 off of 7 and R. Singh who bowled his 10 overs economically but without success.

The Alberta innings started brightly as Anuraj Gupta hooked his fourth ball from Upton for six, however, he injured his knee playing the shot and his movement was restricte for the rest of his innings. Opening for B.C. Upton and D'Souza were economical and D'Souza struck in the 6th over trapping Patel LBW. Wickets fell regularly from that point onwards. Gupta stuck at his task bravely, given the injury, but the batsmen at the other end made little headway. Damian Persaud looked briefly dangerous in hitting a quick twelve before he top edged D'Souza to Upton at square leg. In the 19th over with the score on 69 Gupta (27) lost concentration and attempted to smash Sandher into the nearby driving range and was comprehensively bowled. At 69 for 4 B.C. had the game well in hand and continued to take wickets regularly. The only real resistance came from Sidhu who made a rapid forty with some sweetly timed leg side shots. When he was out in the 30th over with the score at 133 the game was effectively done. D'Souza finished with figures of 3 for 44 and Sajiv Fenando cleaned up the tail, including Sidhu, with a useful 4 for 39. Thanks to some lusty late blows from Choudhary (22) Alberta managed 153 to leave B.C. winners by 74 runs.

Overall this was a well run and organized tournament. It was a pity that none of the Canadian selectors attended this event as it would have been a prime opportunity to have a look at potential Canadian players. The quality of play was quite strong, although all of the bowlers will have been disappointed with the number of wides bowled. Future tournaments will benefit from using four piece instead of two piece cricket balls, the introduction of the 30 yard fielding circle and the strict enforcement of the leg side wide rule. In addition, the age group for this tournament should be reduced to under 23. This level of cricket forms a vital bridge between U-19 play and senior tournaments. However, U-23 should be the cut off as players who have not made their provincial sides by the time they are 24 or 25 are not likely to play for Canada. Given the limited funds available to the various associations it is imperative that money be targeted to developing Canadian players. It is pointless to waste money on U-25 tournaments populated by players who will never progress. It is better to place the money into a senior tournament where those U-25 players who have a realistic chance of playing for Canada will play for their provinces. I hope that a Western interprovincial can be held this year or next to supplement this tournament.

The tournament award winners were as follows:

Best Batsman by Team:

  • Alberta "A" Alan Alfonso
  • Manitoba Damian Mills
  • Alberta Anuraj Gupta
  • B.C. Kevin Sandher
Best Bowler by Team:
  • Alberta "A" Alan Alfonso
  • Manitoba
  • Alberta
  • B.C. Simon Upton
  • Best Batsman: Damian Mills
  • Best Bowler: Kevin Sandher
  • MVP: Kevin Sandher