2018 Michigan Indoor Cricket CUP
The 2018 Michigan Indoor Cricket Cup is over and when it was all said and done, Team Gladiators emerged as Champions of 2018 and were the only team to go undefeated throughout the 2018 Indoor Season. In the process Team Gladiators added a new record to their storied franchise by completing a hat trick of Indoor Championships. Now that everything is all done and dusted, it is time to recap the Glads team’s historic march in the 2018 Indoor season for the benefit of family, friends and supporters of the players who played for Team Gladiators. I will try my best to be brief as going in detail into each match is simply not a productive use of everyone’s time. Since I did not observe the vast majority of the matches, I shall try and stick to the matches where Gladiators as a team was involved and we got updates via whatsapp.
The 2018 Michigan Indoor Cricket Cup saw 24 teams participate. Quite a few of these teams were mergers of multiple DCL Teams and each team architect composed these teams so that they can win the Championship. The Glads team saw quite a few changes as I decided to relocate to India and I made a strategic decision that the person best suited to lead Team Glads going forward would be the new Glads Skipper Sathya Velayutham. That brought along with it a few changes as some decided to play elsewhere and so we wished them luck and moved forward. Factor in the usual loss of players due to relocation, job changes, family changes, injuries, game preferences etc. we had quite a few openings and I too got creative and brought onboard players who I respected and was comfortable with to fill in the void so that we could do a successful defense of the Cup we won in 2016 and 2017. To say that the 2018 Michigan Indoor Cricket Cup was competitive and that teams were loaded with talent would be an understatement. Suffice it to say that when it is all said and done there would be only one Champion and only one architect that would have got the formula right. The twenty four teams that participated in the 2018 Michigan Indoor Cricket Cup were:
Pool A – Gladiators (Champions in 2016, 2017), Hurricanes, MCC, Rangers, Thunderboltz, Blasters
Pool B – Indus, GLCC, Badhsahs, Whackers, Hawks, Strikers
Pool C – Ice Breakers, Aakash, Mavericks, Rebels, SSK, Thamizh Pasangae
Pool D – Raptors, Kushi, Gagan, Rising Kites, Spartans, Avengers
All teams played five regular pool games with the top Team from each pool going directly to the Quarter-Finals and the next two teams from each pool going to the Pre-Quarter-Finals. The following teams (win-loss record in brackets) proceeded directly to the Quarter-Finals:
Pool A – Gladiators (5-0)
Pool B – Indus (5-0)
Pool C – Ice Breakers (4-1)
Pool D – Raptors (4-1)
The following teams from the following pools went to the PQF for a 1 game knockout:
Pool A – Hurricanes, MCC
Pool B – GLCC, Badshahs
Pool C – Aakash, Mavericks
Pool D – Kushi, Gagan
In the PQF, MCC (134/7) beat GLCC (133/6), Gagan (102/10) beat Aakash 51/10, Kushi (77/8) beat Mavericks (76/8), Hurricanes (94/8) beat Badshahs (91/10)
In the QF, Raptors (124/9) waltzed past MCC (95/9), Gladiators (58/10) squeaked past Gagan (44/10), Indus (35/3) annihilated Kushi (34/10), and Hurricanes (66/7) iced the Ice Breakers (65/10)
In the Semifinals; Gladiators (65/9) wobbled past Raptors (64/10) while Indus (32/3) walloped the Hurricanes (31/10)
The stage was now set for an instant classic as two undefeated teams reached the finals in completely contrasting ways. Indus rode in boasting an attack that had given a combined 65 runs in the QF and SF and their attack was looking ominous. Glads on the other hand were wobbly after both Gagan and Raptors took them the distance and the thundering right and left combo from both Gagan and Raptors on the Glads chin had left the Glads team scratching their collective noggins and left them dazed and dazzled and all indications were they were ripe for the knockout punch from Indus
Finals: Glads (7-0) vs. Indus (7-0)
Glads 111/9 in 20 Overs beat Indus 51/10 in 15.2 Overs
Result: Glads won by 60 Runs
MOM: Arjun Ajbani
FCC organizers got the dream final everyone would have loved to see given that the round robin game ended the way it did. Indus wanted the Indoor and Outdoor cup all for themselves and Glads were determined not to give up the grasp on their cup without a battle. The cup had to be won and neither of these teams were going to just hand it over lying down. Both teams wanted to impose their will on the other and both teams had difference makers that could get the job done. Alas only one team was going to win and victory had to be earned on the playing field with superior play.
The Glads think-tank of Tayef, Sathya, Kishan and I had different ideas after the near mishaps against Gagan and Raptors so we went back to the drawing board and decided to change a few things up and added a few wrinkles of our own so that we can change the narrative and thereby the outcome of the game. Coming back to the game – Indus was the defending DCL Champions while Glads were the Defending Michigan Indoor Cup Champions, Indus had by their accounts won 35 games in a row and they were on a roll looking to make it 36 in a row while Glads were looking to do a Hat-trick in the Indoor Championship department and were looking to stop the Indus juggernaut flat in their tracks. Both teams boasted a perfect 7-0 record in this Indoor season and when the game was done and dusted, one of these Goliath’s was going to come crashing down. Going into the game the Indus bowling attack had repeatedly decimated several teams and had the best team bowling stats of all units on display while Glads had set the indoor record for most runs scored in an Indoor game when they scored 203/8 in 20 Overs against Farmington Blasters. If Indus had a deadly bowling attack then Glads had a fabled batting attack that could put to flight anyone when they get going. Indus was led by a feisty Sandeep Gopu who likes to prove a point while Glads were led by mild mannered Sathya but backed by fiery guys like Hardeep, Arjun and Tayef who did a fabulous job filling the big shoes of the former Glads Skipper and the Glads guys love proving their own counter points. Something had to give when these two immovables met and went mano a mano against each other.
Indus won the toss and as I fully expected and had conditioned the Glads team – Indus invited the Glads team to bat. We as a team were fine with batting or bowling. If we batted first and we got a semi-decent start we knew we would simply not lose the game as this Glads team had added several weapons in the bowling department and we felt supremely confident that we can defend anything north of 75 indoors. On the other hand we had recovered from 11 for 5 in 7 Overs against Raptors and chased down the Raptor score by making 65/9 in 19 Overs. We knew we could handle anything dished at us.
Glads lost Sam early in the very first over and we were 0 for 1 right off the bat. Pre-Game Arjun told me that he should come lower down as he had been producing less than nothing throughout the indoor season and felt he was letting the team down. Both Sathya and I gave him our vote of confidence and also a few suggestions on what should be done. It is one thing to suggest but a totally different thing to execute it. How badly did we want to win this game? Here is the answer – Glads never use their expensive high quality bats indoor as I believe that the waxy petroleum stuff that kicks up from the indoor turf actually spoils the bat. We have a few dedicated bats for Indoor however Arjun likes to use one particular bat that seems well balanced for him and alas that bat is not in our approved bat list for Indoor. For this game I relaxed that rule and gave the green light for Sathya to give the team any bat they want as in the big scheme of things we were going to do whatever it takes to win the game and if the bat gave a slight psychological advantage then we were going to use that for the benefit of the team.
There is a famous English saying – “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it dink.” I also told Arjun “Form is temporary but class is permanent.” None of us knew what to expect and after unsuccessfully lobbying to push himself down the order, the man walked in and proceeded to show everyone that he meant business. The very first ball he faced was sent for the maximum and the next one after that for a sweetly timed boundary. Two balls and 10 runs came just like that in a heartbeat. The intentions were announced with pristine clarity, loud and clear to the opposition, to the many spectators who showed up to watch and those following the game remotely. The man was here to put on a show and if Indus had any nefarious designs on the Cup then they had to grab it and yank it out of his humongous hands. Rayhan was promoted up the order for the Finals given that we needed to try something different from the Raptors and Gagan games. Rayhan did not disappoint and gave able support by milking the singles and for a change in a Playoff game we got a decent start. Hardeep joined Arjun after Rayhan departed and the duo put on a very valuable and solid partnership. By the twelfth Over the score read 69/2 of which Arjun had scored 55. Such was the complete domination and for a change Hardeep was reduced to playing second fiddle to the great man. The fact that Indus dropped catches did not help matters as to add salt to the wounds, Arjun followed up the dropped catch with a maximum off the very next ball. By the time the innings ended, he had scored 67 off 43 balls – studded with six maximums and six sweetly timed fours. Oni came and as was his customary style scored a quick fier 13 off 6 deliveries and the Glads score swelled to 111/9 in 20 Overs. I don’t know about Detroit, but the fat lady started singing loudly in Chennai, India. I switched off my mobile and entered church knowing fully well that by the time I got out of Church, Sathya would have hoisted the Indoor Cup for a third time.
I was told that the Glads bowlers dominated the proceedings as Indus got skittled out for 51 as Tayef and Rayhan picked 3 wickets a piece and Oni castled the stumps of their in-form batsmen Rahul and Varma while our line and length expert Naryan Sriram did his magic and continued where he left off against Raptors. My favorite Indus player not named Haveri i.e. Chetan had a good outing with the bat and ball with Dinesh providing decent support. In the end as an Umpire and others who texted me put it – The game was one sided and Arjun took away the game from the opposition. The game probably is a lot closer if the catches were held but the Glads guys could do no wrong on game day as everything went their way and the Indus guys could do nothing right as catch after catch went begging to be held. I have been on the receiving end of that scenario multiple times so I can empathize with that and understand the feeling. I was told that the Indus bowling was good but the fielding was dismal as the bowlers got no support.
Team Gladiators consisted of the following (In Alphabetical Order):
1. Aditya Bommaraju – He played one practice game. He was available for a league game but since we could not qualify him, we did not play him in this year’s version of the tournament. Given that the Glads Opening batting was more miss than hit, we sure could have used his expertise in opening. Did not happen Indoor so we will put it to full use Outdoor.
2. Ajay Veerapaneni – We got him qualified and he was available if the team needed him at any point of time if we were short players. We liked his team first attitude. The kind of players who we appreciate a lot and whose value is not describable.
3. Anoop Bhokare – I breathe easier when Anoop is on the field. We used him for the PQF game and then we missed him in the SF and Finals due to an India trip. I genuinely thought that we could have made our life a lot easier if Anoop was available against Raptors. His presence of mind and his all-round brilliance and team-first attitude always makes him every Skippers favorite.
4. Arjun Ajbani – He was an almighty flop till the finals and if his name was not named Ajbani he certainly would have been axed from the lineup for the Finals. You have my word on that. But the Glads think tank knew that if he can get going the game will be ours beyond the shadow of a doubt. I was told by multiple people who watched the game that Arjun played one of the best innings in a long time and when the current DCL MVP Sudhir Paka says after the game “Awesome batting Arjun!!! One of the best I have seen ….” Or when current DCL Committee member Vamsi Thulasi says “It was the Arjun show. He played one of his best. I told him that Viju will be regretting for not being here to witness this innings. I felt, he played like when he was in his prime form few years ago.” Or when fellow teammate and former Arsenal Skipper Tayef says “ … When big game came Arjun stepped up again and made it easy to lift the cup.” No kidding – We knew these guys are stating the obvious – hence we kept his heavy posterior around 🙂 despite his repeated failures in earlier games. He was the unanimous and runaway MVP of the 2018 Indoor Finals and is seen pictured below with his better half at the awards ceremony.
5. Fahimul Islam – Glads got consistent production from Fahim at the opening spot time after time, game after game. Then Fahim had to go back to the motherland due to an emergency and Glads opening woes started as no one gave us the kind of starts that Fahim and Vaibhav gave us at the top of the order. I hope all things work out for him but we were happy to get one for Fahim given that despite all his troubles he followed the SF and Finals closely all through the night sitting 10,000 miles away.
6. Hardeep Singh – Hardeep had his numerous moments in the tournament with the bat and gave solid support to Arjun in the Finals as we went about setting a big total but the place where he stepped up the most was in being the inspirational leader before, during and after the game and filling in the void created by my disappearance from the huddle. He did not have a Telugu Cup like movement from last year but his presence made an immediate difference as team chemistry, bonding and never give up attitude helped the team pull out the close games.
7. Hari Kurada – He played the SF and Finals as he brings a skillset that we greatly need and the use of that skillset depends on how the game flows. In the Finals with Arjun taking over the game and wickets in abundance, the Glads team did not end up using the skillset but no final is won without the sacrifices and timely inputs along the way and Kurada was a valuable addition to the Glads team and his support meant that some of us remotely following the game like Anoop and I only wanted updates from him.
8. Jeet Nirban Jeet had a season to forget with the bat but did well with limited opportunities he got with the ball. Unbelievable potential with a fantastic attitude meant Glads young gun should rebound in the outdoor season and his fielding was lights out good as usual.
9. Kishan Kanneganti – I needed a guy who was a team oriented player and was willing to sacrifice and do anything for the team. We got that and more in former teammate Kishan who also happens to be a great keeper when he decides to be one. We were in a hopeless situation against Gagan and it looked like the end of the road had been reached. Defending a measly 58 runs and when the opposition is 31/2 after 7 Overs, you need a spark to come out of it and when Kishan took an unbelievable diving low catch to get rid of Jassy off Tayef’s bowling we got the spark that turned into a fire and Glads romped home with 14 runs to spare. If that catch was not taken there would be no 3-PEAT. Plain and simple. Then of couse we tap Kishan’s brain for ideas and develop a plan of action and his keeping to the superfast Oni and Rayhan has been unbelievable. We could keep him in the team just for his Keeping. He will get his chances to score runs in bunches in the DCL regular season but for this tournament that one catch alone was worth its weight in Gold.
10. Mahi Masud – We got him qualified but his timings with work did not allow him to play as many games as we would have liked. I liked the talent that I saw with the bat and hopefully the summer will see him become more available.
11. Narayan Sriram – He came on my radar very late and then again without seeing him in full action it is tough to make a judgment. But his biggest endorsement came from his tennis buddy Chidura who is a good buddy of mine and the character assessment of the person made a bigger impact than all else. Life is all about capitalizing on the opportunities when they present themselves. We had Sriram qualified and then we felt out bowling needed an upgrade after one of the games. We pushed Sriram and he responded like a true warrior and delivered what we asked and more. In the process he became a full-fledged bowler who was going to bowl his full spell every game and boy did he bowl some beauties against the Raptors and did he hold his neve as Parthiv and company unloaded all the sledges trying to get him to cough up his wicket with Sriram being the last man partnering Tayef. Sriram did not score a run in that game but it was the most significant Zero scored in that game as it was Zero not out and afforded Tayef an opportunity to drive the spear through the heart of the beast as Glads overhauled a target we had no business overhauling by just holding onto out nerves.
12. Rayhan Ahmed – He is only 18 or 19 but he has Oni kind of pace without Oni kind of consistency. We showed Rayhan no mercy rather we challenged him for more and when he delivered we asked even more. He hardly batted the entire tournament (but for one league game where he was given an opportunity) and then we threw him to the wolves in the Finals on the biggest stage and asked him to open the innings and just give us some more as things were not working with the top 5 in the QF and SF. In the SF we needed Vraj’s wicket more than any other and the 18 year old steps up and delivers the gold. Trust me there was a huge yell of relief in Chennai when Vraj fell as I know very well what damage Vraj can do if we let him off the hook. He was a critical ingredient for Glads lifting the cup. We had confidence the young lad can get it done after the preliminary evaluation and he sure did not disappoint rather rewarded us for the faith entrusted in him. DCL teams facing Glads can expect a healthy diet of Ryan Ahmed branded pickles where the sole intention is to put the batsman in a pickle.
13. Sathya Velayutham – He was the man I entrusted an all-star roster with. Sure I recruited guys after some openings developed on the Glads roster but the man who has to make it all work seamlessly and smoothly was the Skipper. He is the most important piece of the puzzle. We get that decision wrong and everything else will go downhill very rapidly. When it is an All-Star roster, the challenges are even more acute but everyone we added to the team respected Sathya and trusted him and that in turn meant the Glads management just had to give pointers and step in only if the situation absolutely warranted it. It was his very first tournament and we did not miss a beat and we lifted the cup. I had some naysayers tell me that I might have made a mistake but in my heart and my mind I was absolutely certain I had hit the nail on the head and had made no mistake whatsoever. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting of the same and if you ask the guys who play with Sathya they will all tell you the right decision was taken. The Glads Skipper is seen below with his family and Harnoor (Hardeep’s daughter) after winning what will hopefully be the first of many Championships.
14. Sudhir Paka – It is not too often you get to add the reigning MVP of the League to your roster and it so happens that the MVP is a down to earth, fantastic, first rate bloke. When you get the chance you take it with open hands and we had played enough with Paka to know he was a perfect fit for us. It was no surprise that Paka was our second most consistent player in the Indoor tournament and he played a perfect game with Oni to deliver the Glads team out of dire straits time after time. Paka is a rare player who can play according to the situation and we sorely lacked such a player who when provided with a good set of reasonable talent around him can really deliver the goods time after time. His chemistry with us is off the charts and we are chomping at the bid for the DCL 2018 Season to start. No Paka, No Tayef and no Oni – No cup this year for team Glads is how I see it.
15. Tamim Oni – We added him after he expressed an interest to play with us. This is the second year he played with us. Last year was good for Oni but this year was a season for the ages. It is the single best performance by a player in Indoor I have ever seen. He literally carried the team on his back. My gut is he does not play so well if he does not enjoy the guys he plays with but fortunately for us, we have a perfect chemistry with Oni and I personally respect his abilities as one of the best I have seen. He was the MVP of the Indoor League and honestly there was no one even remotely close to him this season. He was miles and miles and miles ahead of everyone. Oni was only racing against himself and he was his only competition. I have to give kudos to the man for he willed his way and grabbed the cup for all of us. He is a fantastic person and so he has been a personal favorite of mine for all the right reasons. He was easily the fastest bowler in the tournament and he was a killer on the prowl when handed the ball. He was a marked assassin and every game he played he tried to kill someone and when he was not killing someone with the ball, he was busy killing them with the bat as time after time he went on a murderous rampage as he attacked opposition bowlers with absolute disdain. He rightfully swept all the real awards worth sweeping and is pictured below accepting the MVP trophy from Vamsi Thulasi.
16. Tayefur Rehman – When Tayef approached me and told me he wanted to play for Glads, I was stunned and surprised. Stunned because he was the Skipper for Arsenal and people generally do not leave the position of Skipper to go to another team. For me adding him to the Glads team after a courtesy conversation with my friend Mubba was a no brainer because I had played with Tayef and his character is impeccable and his heart is immeasurable. Time after time when we needed a breakthrough, we gave the ball to Tayef and he gave us the breakthrough. Even the finals MVP Arjun admitted to me that he had underestimated how clutch Tayef is! According to me Tayef has ice cold water running in his veins and I heard Parthiv and company in their imitable style sledged Tayef trying to secure the last wicket and it was all for naught as the man is unshakeable even when the sledger is the best of the best. He willed Glads to victory against Raptors and he will be wearing Glads blue in DCL 2018. He found the team he wanted and we found the player we wanted. He is without a doubt the best closer in DCL in my mind. He is Mr. Money!!!
17. Usama Khalid – He holds the record for scoring 225 odd runs in 71 balls or so in a leather ball 20 Over game. I still do not know how he did it. We like everything Sam brings to the table except for his T ball prowess which is nonexistent. He is a fantastic team player but at this stage he has not yet got the timing aspect of t ball down but the Glads team has tremendous patience and we like to take our time building our players but the day Sam gets his timing right, I know the T Ball game in Michigan will dance upon its head and do a somersault. When will that day be? I have no clue brother. Your guess is as good as mine. He is trying and we are also making a concentrated effort at trying to get the timing aspect down but each player is different but Glads and I are committed to this long term project. We knew it will be a long term project and I know Sam’s resolve so I can count on him to do whatever it takes. If I did not believe in him then I would not have added him to the Glads roster. That is plain and honest reporting as I see it.
18. Vaibhav Iyer – He was our regular opener and more often than not he gave us rock solid and rapid fire starts. He was unavailable for the final else he would have played at his regular spot but we won so all of us are happy. He is a consummate professional, who comes and plays and gives it his best and the best thing about Vaibhav is the fact that if the team wins then he is happy. He plays the game with the right spirit.
19. Viju Zachariah – Remote Support, Motivation and Cricket Consultant who pressed all the right buttons before he left the country.
Umpiring: Both Ganesh and Jagan called a good game in the finals. I did not hear any complaints from the Glads guys and it is usually lbw’s that are questionable that rattle all teams and if the umpire knows his stuff on that count then all other mistakes are given passes. I appreciated the fact the Jagan even arranged Radio Commentary though I felt the commentary was not audible at all times and probably because of the acoustics the voice kept cutting in and out.
Team Indus: They are the Outdoor Champions for a reason and they were a worthy opponent in the final. They had a dream run starting last year when they beat Glads. I was told they won 35 in a row though I am not sure how that math works given there are only 12 regular season games in DCL but if Gopu stated it then I know it has to be true. Last year Gopu told me that Indus will beat Glads and I tried to prevent that and I failed. We lost bad but we lost to a good team so I can live with it as it is an axiom of life that when you go against good teams that you are bound to win some and lose some. If we are not prepared to lose then we should stop playing. I was itching for a rematch and I had told the Glads team that we are going to return the favor and had told Sathya we needed a big win. Thanks to a superlative innings by Arjun we have broken the winning streak by winning big. With Glads and Indus in the same group, we are bound to meet in the regular season and if I know Gopu well, he will be back to prove another point and we will be ready for that. Hopefully DCL can make it a Marquee D/N game to give the fans their money’s worth. They have some very good players in Haveri, Manoj Singh, Varma, Chetan etc. and looks like they have added several pieces to beef up their already formidable lineup but Glads have also beefed up and we have some very good players too and a new day on a new pitch will be anybody’s game. I have certainly done my part to spice this for the next installment in this series but when two good teams play, I feel cricket is the winner. Team Indus is pictured below – This picture is not complete without the man who put Indus on the map – Azeem!!!
Glads Family & Supporters: A big thank you to all for coming and supporting us throughout the event. We valued every bit of support we got and it meant a lot to us to see you there cheering for us. To the wives of Arjun, Ronak, Sathya, Hardeep and parents of Jay/Jeet – I am sure it meant a lot to your husbands/sons to see you out there in full support as they followed their passion and went after a cup that means a lot to them. A special shout out to Hariharan our great motivator/Supporter/friend from India – He gave Arjun genuine ribbing for failing till the finals and thus kept Arjun honest and Chetan our most loyal supporter from California. On behalf of Team Glads – A Big Thank You!!!
The FCC Organizers: The FCC Organizers did a fabulous job with organizing the Indoor Tournament. Good to see that 24 teams took part in this year’s version though I am not sure if bigger is always better. We felt we sleep walked through some of the games and just went through the motions to show up and get a W. The real games only began in the Playoffs and with that the intensity necessary to make the game meaningful. Anytime you can get two undefeated teams in the Finals, it sure shapes up to be a dream final. Hopefully the spectators got a treat from the Original Master in offensive batting.
The Glads-Indus Scorecard is as posted below