If your kids are keen to get into cricket, there are some exciting coaching opportunities available right here in DB. Jonathan Ogden and Sam Agars report.
As every cricket-loving DB parent knows, there are two big cricketing clubs catering to DB kids – the DB Smashers, managed by Avneesh Saxena, Jonathan Mapp and Mark Panckhurst, and the Junior Cricket Academy (JCA), headed up by Nilesh Jhaveri.
Established in 2005, the JCA holds classes for boys and girls, aged five to 15 years old, at Discovery Bay International School (DBIS). 2015-founded DB Smashers, meanwhile, offers coaching to boys and girls aged six to 14 at both DBIS and the Discovery Bay Recreation Club (DBRC).
Next month, both clubs will select teams to compete in the Hong Kong Cricket Association (HKCA) Junior Cricket League. The season starts in September, with the first matches in October. “Numbers permitting, we want to put two U11 teams in the softball and hardball leagues respectively, and one in the U13 hardball league,” says Avneesh. The JCA kids didn’t play in the HKCA Junior Cricket League last season, but Nilesh hopes to field both U11 and U13 teams this year.
DB Smashers victorious
For the DB Smashers, it all started in mid-2015 when a group of like-minded, cricket-loving parents decided to set up some practice sessions and drills for their kids. Within a few months, as more children joined, coach Ankur Vasishta, a Hong Kong national team player, encouraged Avneesh to take it further and get a team registered with the HKCA.
Entering the U11 softball cricket league in September, the DB Smashers broke the mould by picking a girl captain, Venezia ‘Vinnie’ Ogden. Marshalling her troops from behind the stumps as an aggressive wicketkeeper, she also proved a pugnacious batsman, often coming in late in an innings and bludgeoning boundaries, inspiring those around her.
By the end of the year, the DB players had begun to find their feet. The bowlers started to get their sights straight and opposition batsmen started to fear rather than feast on them. When the team went out to bat at the HKCA cricket ground in Diamond Hill, runs started to flow rather than wickets tumble.
Stars began to emerge. Danny Mapp, 8, developed a formidable bowling action and pace. His older brother Joshua, 10, got in on the act as well, producing a much-talked about hat trick. Avneesh’s son Arnav, a gangly 11-year-old, started showing the way as an opening batsman. One of his memorable innings started six, six and four. Pratish Vyas, 9, played his part as a wily spin bowler and enthusiastic fielder.
Gradually the DB Smashers came to understand that everyone had an important part to play, even the youngsters, including Ryan Morais, 10, Ved Hardas, 8, Zaid Faizar, 10, Sujai Thirumalaikumar, 8, and Aneka Ogden, 10, who only got in on a few games.
After a nail-biting semi-final win against the HKCC Dragons, brought about by top scorers Arnav and Daniel Panckhurst, 9, and previously unsung bowlers Sameen Dar, 11, and Aryan Chandiramani, 10, the DB Smashers found themselves in the final – up against the Avengers.
The DB Smashers batted first. Sensing the big occasion, most of the top-order batsmen got among the runs, with Josh top scoring with a quick fire 20 not out, Arnav hitting 19, and Vinnie smashing a rapid 12 not out. That left the Avengers facing the huge task of making 125 runs in 14 overs to win. Their opening pair got off to a reasonable start. But the DB Smashers in the field were now a well-oiled machine – the batsmen couldn’t find the boundary, their path always blocked by eager fielders. The Avengers were reduced to taking singles.
As the innings wore on, the pressure mounted on the Avengers to start scoring fours and sixes. This led to wickets tumbling, with Danny bagging a much-celebrated three. At the end of play, on April 30, the Avengers were left all out with just 62 runs – exactly half the DB Smashers’ total. The DB Smashers had won the U11 final of the HKCA Junior Softball Cricket League – as Avneesh says: “Not bad for an opening chapter.”
Junior Cricket Academy on the rise
2016 is shaping up to be a big year for Discovery Bay’s inaugural cricket coaching school, the Junior Cricket Academy (JCA). Comprised of more than 30 children, JCA was thriving as recently as two-and-a-half years ago, when DB founder Nilesh Jhaveri was forced to relocate to the UK for personal reasons. Nilesh is now back in DB and determined to get JCA back on track – bigger and better than it was before.
“In September we will be back in the Hong Kong Cricket Association (HKCA) League, fielding U11 and U13 teams,” Nilesh says. “I’m trying to harness what we had going before I went away.”
JCA offers top-level coaching for boys and girls, aged five to 15, and Nilesh is looking to build a strong team of mentors. “I’m going to get two other coaches to help out,” he says. “They are either going to be part of the Hong Kong national team or ex-national team players.”
JCA trains every Saturday during term time at DBIS and spent the past season playing competitive matches against other teams from around Hong Kong. The Discovery Bay Cricket Club, of which Nilesh is captain, uses JCA as a feeder club, which ensures continuity and a seamless progression for kids as they move up the grades, while giving them the opportunity to play cricket at a competitive level.
Bayside Dental cricket success
A Bayside Dental team competed in the inaugural Kids Premier League cricket tournament, held at Po Kong Village Road Park, Diamond Hill, back in April. The team, brought together by Sandeep Jain and featuring a host of Discovery Bay children, ended up winning the tournament.