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Dodson Exits Junior Ranks In Grand Style

By Orin Davidson
For all its shortcomings - the lack of officiousness or pomp and ceremony, the 2007 United States of America Under-19 cricket championship, was a means to an end for the New York team.

Akeem Dodson (right) accepts his winners' medal from USACA president Gladstone Dainty.

There were no trophies for the champion and runner up teams nor even the check that has become the norm at New York after tournament activities, but the four-team Finals this year provided the squad with the best record in its four-year existence, with an opportunity to more than just amend for a surprise semi-final loss last year.

Akeem Dodson was grateful he was given the chance to end his junior career in grand style, even as the problem-plagued United States of America Cricket Association's (USACA) current sojourn, the biggest being financial, continues to struggle to keep its head above water.

He did not crack a whirlwind century in any of the two games New York won, but captained the team to its most impressive performance ever since the series started in 2004.

New York crushed defending champions Northern California (North East Region) by eight wickets in the first semi-final and stomped on Southern California (South West) by 92 runs to win the final.

Dodson’s contribution with the bat were not big in stats, but were invaluable to the end results. He gave up his role as batting spearhead by taking on an anchor role in the middle instead of his accustomed role at number three.

Two subdued knocks of 34 not out and 25 were enough to solidify the innings both times, but the satisfaction of captaining the team to victory provided extreme pleasure for the United States’ most prolific Under-19 batsman in his farewell series at that level.

With budding dreadlocks and in his opinion, becoming a better player than he ever was, Dodson has come a long way from the days when as a boy he began competitive cricket while attending the Daruldaruloom all Muslim school in Queens.

I remember interviewing the youngster at the time, in his flowing white outfit just after his selection for trials for the national under-15 team in 2003 when he was known for joining the band of select youngsters to become a Hafiz – the status given to anyone capable of memorizing the entire Quran

Now Dodson is an accomplished batsman/wicketkeeper studying Engineering at York University after having played in many parts of the world with great success by United States cricket standards.

Every summer since those early days he has been actively involved in competition, beginning with that ground breaking New York Junior Youth Development Program in 2002, that ignited the flames of interest in almost every young cricketer within the City thereafter.

" There is nothing else I would rather do on the weekends of summer, it never was an inconvenience traveling around because it is what I wanted to do," Dodson explained.

It required finding transportation to move around New York and its environs to represent teams ranging from the JYDP squads to Villagers club of the Metropolitan League and readying himself to traverse the cricket playing cities around the United States and within the cricket world to diverse places like Sri Lanka.

Dodson never became bored nor frustrated, he just lapped it up with typical teenage exuberance.
Scoring centuries in casual and competitive cricket, the last being an almost single-handed effort in the 2006 national championship third place game of 123 for New York, helped.

As part of the first ever United States team to contest the International Cricket Council (ICC) staged Under-19 World Cup early last year, Dodson was the lone wicketkeeper picked in a squad that played six warm-up games in India and five in the tournament afterwards in neighboring Sri Lanka..

It was a short-sighted decision to select only one wicketkeeper which placed tremendous strain on Dodson who did duty behind the stumps every game while carrying the team’s batting at number three.

He came through the rigors eventually, a much hardened player that allowed him to play non stop since then.

While other players have dropped out of competition like the said World Cup captain Hemant Poonoo, Dodson happened to be one of only two New Yorkers and three overall who were on show last weekend in Fort Lauderdale, from the squad from Sri Lanka.

Having played in almost every domestic level type competition in New York the last two years and without the prospect of experiencing another World Cup next year due to the ban imposed on United States cricket, you could've understood if a player like Dodson was turned off from competition this year.

The captaincy of New York could not have been an influential factor, because he already had leadership experience from last year as vice captain.

It was the desire to enjoy the sport Dodson first experienced as a young boy in his father's homeland in Guyana.

And thanks to the extended efforts by the New York team management to raise the players' focus, the non-incentive of a lost opportunity to play in Malaysia next year became a non issue.

Dodson and his team were happy to battle for New York that resulted in their collective contributions making the team’s second title win seem like child’s play.

Not that a chance to renew rivalries with powerhouse teams from Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and India was not tempting to the left hander.

" Of course I would've liked to play in another World Cup, but playing any type of cricket is good enough for me," Dodson emphasized.

New York is now better off with another national title as a result, and in a much better position to influence the outcome of the requirements for the lifting of the ICC ban.

Yet had the world ruling body been observing the tournament's handling at Brian Piccollo Park, they would not have seen a good advertisement to release American back into the fold.

Outside of teams having to fend for themselves with accommodation and every other tournament requirement other than the plane tickets to Florida, they had to endure a presentation ceremony that would've been better off not staged.

No trophies for the winning and runner-up teams, and miniscule ones for four individual awards, was an embarrassment for a national tournament.

It is known that ICC funding was cut off with the ban instituted in March, but it would be an empty excuse to use the council’s action to water- down the series and claim that USACA officials had to go into their pockets to make it a reality. Everyone knows those officials have no one to blame but themselves for being cut loose by the ICC.

Had USACA acquired sponsorship to cover the expenses and make the 2007 championship more meaningful, they might've gone some way towards impressing even the ICC.

Instead we were given tournament that the Tri State competition, staged for New York, Jersey and Connecticut teams, made look like a trial game series with the attractiveness of the prizes at stake.

In the aftermath, the only consolation USACA could take home is providing Dodson - the country's most outstanding Under-19 cricketer, with a platform to end his junior career in the best possible manner.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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