The “final four” weekend is my favorite weekend. This is the weekend when teams have to work extra hard to get over the hump and try to get to that elusive championship weekend. It also gives the followers an opportunity to follow multiple games and try to cheer for teams that they think will be the best matchup the following weekend. My love for the “final four” started with Tennis actually. I always loved the semi-final round at the US Open and at Wimbledon. Then, when I started following college basketball, I became fascinated with the “final four” weekend. And in the NFL, I find the NFC and AFC games fascinating….more so than the super-bowl itself. The finals come with pomp and pageantry but the semi-finals is played where dreams come true….or are shattered. Every player wants to be a part of the championship game experience. And it’s the semi-finals victory that is the realization of that dream.

I want to start this article by recognizing the unprecedented achievement that Potomac accomplished this year. No team in WCL history started 0-5 and then won a championship. This is a remarkable feat and I applaud the grit, determination, and effort that my buddy Munish Pathak and his team mates put forth. Take a bow Potomac! The accolades coming your way are well deserved. I was told that Potomac needed to score 120+ runs in the last 13 or so overs and did it with the loss of only 2 wickets. That is an amazing performance in the finals. I thought that Windies was the best team in D2, but Potomac proved everyone wrong and is a worthy champion. It is great to see one of the founding teams of WCL win the championship. I wish Potomac all the best in D1 next year.

A few thoughts about the games that transpired this weekend: Let’s start with D2. As stated, Potomac was the headliner, but Windies too needs to be recognized for a great effort. It is my belief that this team should be promoted to D1 along with Potomac and Toucans. More on the logic later in this article.  Hunters has been a very consistent team and did well in the later part of the year but faltered against a high caliber Windies team this weekend. I have great expectations from Hunters next year. I have  a feeling they will be a contender for the D2 Championship.

D1 semi-finals saw top class cricket in both games. UMBC scored 220+ runs and CCC gave it a good  chase. From all accounts, it was a fantastic game. Similarly, Sri Lankan batted well to post 198 runs and Zolon batted well too and reached the target in 34.3 overs with 4 wickets to spare. Sri Lankan team is a top class fielding side that fought hard till the end. So disciplined is this team that when I got to the ground at 11:10 am, I saw that the wicket was already prepared, boundaries already marked and the Sri Lankan team was conducting fielding drills. This is how efficient and organized this team is. In addition, the team brings LOTS of supporters to the ground. Yesterday, these supporters gave the entire game a very festive atmosphere.  I believe the top 3 teams in D1 this year were UMBC, Sri Lankan and Zolon and all three deserve to be in the PD. More on that later in the article too J

I was lucky enough to witness the Boyds-Vikings semi-finals. It was an interesting game actually. Vikings started with a bang but Boyds fought hard and pulled the game back in the middle overs and then Vikings ended with a flurry at the end to take their score to 179. Waleed and Ammar were stars with the bat. Then it was time for Boyds to bat. Roshan came out determined and gave the team a good start. He was batting well but his innings didn’t last long enough to make a significant impact. Adil however did not disappoint the Boyds faithful and played an excellent innings. One that had a good mix of aggression and restraint. For Vikings, Ammar was the pick of the bowlers. He bowled brilliantly and made sure that Boyds did not run away. He also took key wickets and was highly instrumental in ensuring that his team ended up on top. It was a good game with good drama and Vikings held their nerves and came out on top.

And finally, let’s talk about THE game. From all accounts, and I did talk with Shahzad Haider who was at our game Sunday, the atmosphere was electric and both teams put in top quality effort. He had high praise for Tigers as well (although he might not admit it publically) and said that “Tigers are a top quality team and we really had to play our best to win this.” When I asked him about next week’s encounter, he said, “We will play our best team next week too. This is not the time to take it easy. We didn’t work hard all season long to relax in the championship game”. So folks, look for a highly charged game next Saturday.

Some interesting trends: Only one #1 seed made it through to the finals, and that is UMBC.  It only goes to show how tough the competition is. Another interesting fact is that only 2 teams batting second won this weekend – Potomac and Zolon. All other games were won by teams batting first.

And finally, my appeal to the powers that be in WCL. Please take a re-look at your promotion/demotion structure. It has room for improvement. I’ll start with Kensington. The team decided to leave the competition once it realized that it does not have the ability to field a team for the entire season. It did so after forfeiting a game in the t20. The league has “supposedly” assured them that they will get their slot back in the Premier Division if they come back next year. This is so unfair. Here you had teams fighting out every weekend to a) stay in the Premier Division and b) get to Premier Division and on the other hand, the league makes assurances to a team that didn’t even compete that they will not lose their seat at the table. As I’ve stated before, Premier Division, or any division for that matter, is not a place holder for teams that decide to take a year off. It’s a competitive league and when teams “choose” not to compete, they should be relegated. The “excuse” that is being used is that there is “precedence” as it was done for Tigers in the past. Well, we live in a new world. There was also precedence that teams were promoted after winning the lower division championship the previous year. Yet, there were no promotions last year. Then why is the league entertaining the thought of letting Kensington keep a top division slot? If Kensington comes back, it MUST compete in D1. That’s the penalty for deciding to take a year off. The team made a decision not to play, it must face consequences. And the league needs to make this a by-law so all teams know what the consequences are for taking a year off.

Now let me get to my argument about the merits of promoting more than 2 teams. As I stated earlier, Sri Lankan team is a high quality team that can compete at the higher level. They always have 13 or more players present at every game. On the other hand, a team like ICC struggled to put 11 people on the ground for some of its games. I spoke with Asif Master two weeks ago, and he said, “the commitment level of many players just isn’t the same. I had to play my adolescent son just so we could have 8 players.” Now I have nothing personal against ICC. In fact, almost all the players in that team are my friends, but if a team can’t bring 11 players to a game that was so important to them – to avoid relegation – then should such a team even play in the Premier Division, the showcase division of WCL?

Why do I say this? Because if Kensington comes back, ICC is going to be relegated. However, if Kensington doesn’t come back, ICC avoids relegation. Wouldn’t ICC be better off playing in D1 based on their performance, record and commitment level of their players? And shouldn’t a team like Sri Lankan get a chance to move up? That I believe is the right thing to do. Sri Lankan is a young and dynamic team and for every team there is a “window of opportunity” that lasts only a finite amount of time. These guys are in their prime and should play at a higher level NOW. It is good for them and good for the league and good for growth of cricket. If those are the league’s objectives in implementing a multi-tiered structure, then they must do everything to ensure that the “right” teams play in the “right” divisions. There should be some flexibility in the system to allow for the best teams to play in the higher divisions. I don’t think other teams would begrudge that.  I’m sure PD teams will welcome Sri Lankan into their fold with open arms. Similarly, I believe that Windies deserve a promotion. This team was extremely consistent and just because it lost to a team that was on an unbelievable run, shouldn’t preclude it from playing where it truly belongs. I believe that if promoted, Windies will compete for a playoff spot in D1. It should get that opportunity.


 

3 Comments

  1. Sri says:

    Completely agree Anu bhai. This is one of the best articles, i have read from you. Reasons and suggestions have all been given now and earlier, but its upto the League and EC to sit down and put a by law on paper and prove to teams that want to go out on their will and come back on their will and keep their spots open. This is not a bus or train (where you someone can keep a seat for you), it needs to be earned with all the grinding of the 40 overs on the field and making the playoffs and winning it. That said, SLCC, Windies are all top class team and if this 3 tier system has to work going forward, league should ensure there are competitive and equally talented teams playing in the correct Division. Hope some one concerned is listening and reading and all these discussions are not in vain and are falling on the right ears and eyes.

  2. ANON says:

    “However, if Kensington doesn’t come back, ICC avoids relegation. Wouldn’t ICC be better off playing in D1 based on their performance, record and commitment level of their players?”

    How so? Kensington’s record is zero for 2013, their performance was zero and their commitment level was zero. Why would a team which at least chose to show up even with 8 players be relegated and a team which disappeared for the season be allowed to come back. Their players are all over the place. What is the guarantee that they can get 11 PD caliber players for 2014? My vote is for them to go to D1 and if they again withdraw to be removed from WCL and make them re-apply for a spot in D2.

  3. Aj says:

    Anu bhai,

    I liked the questions you have put forward. I just wanted to suggest that the WCL divisions remind me a lot of the new Indian Domestic league, the Ranji Trophy. They have 3 divisions and all have a chance to meet in the playoffs. 3 teams from A , 3 teams from B and 2 teams from C. We can also apply that to WCL. If a team has performed well throughout the season, give them a chance to compete with the best. Why have 3 champions in 1 league ? Of course, the best team of the division will be the one that was on top of their individual table. Again, I am new to the league and hardly know about the history. Just wanted to be part of the conversation. :)

    Sincerely,
    A fan of your blog.

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