- Associated Press - Sunday, February 8, 2015

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - Only 16 young men from around the United States were chosen recently to compete on the United States Cricket Association’s Under 17 touring team in India.

Two of them are from right here in Jonesboro.

While most Valley View students were celebrating the holidays at home with their families and friends, cousins Kishan and Sam Das were spending their time testing their cricket skills against some of the top young players in India.

Kishan, 16, and Sam, 15, spent 15 days in December and January touring in India as members of the United States Cricket Association’s U17 team. The two were noticed by the United States Cricket Association while playing in national tournaments and got the chance of a lifetime to play in the cricket-crazed country.

Kishan is the son of Dan and Renu Das and Sam is the son of Junior and Jaimi Das.

Cricket is considered the second most popular sport worldwide behind soccer. Much like baseball, the game is won by scoring more runs than the opposing team.

There are pitchers, called bowlers, which is what Sam plays along with being a batsman. Kishan plays a wicketkeeper, whose role is somewhat of a defender of the plate, as well as being a batsman.

Although the sport hasn’t become huge in America yet, it is growing according to Sam’s father, Junior, who along with his brother Dan are the volunteer coaches of the ASU cricket team.

“The sport is catching like a wildfire,” Junior Das said.

Both Kishan and Sam learned the game from their fathers and watching them play for the Jonesboro Cricket Club. Kishan’s father Dan started the Jonesboro Cricket Club, and along with Junior, has been involved with it since its inception.

As the president of the club now, Junior has a strict protocol for new players. Anyone wishing to join the team, including his son, has to sit on the sidelines, do the dirty work and learn the game for two years.

“You have to learn the sport before you get in it. It’s hard and there is no equipment,” Junior Das said.

Indeed, it is a tough sport where athleticism is as important as technique. Catch the very hard cricket ball wrong, and it can slice a hand like a razor or bend fingers into positions they were never meant to go.

Much like baseball, it takes time to learn cricket.

Junior Das said with the help of city officials, the opportunity to learn cricket is easier than ever though.

“The city has been very nice to us. They’ve donated a field at Southside Softball Complex and we thank the mayor Harold Perrin and we thank Wixson Huffstetler and also Sharron Turman,” Das said. “They continue doing a lot for us.”

While they are both still teenagers, Kishan and Sam have put in their time on the cricket pitch.

Both endured two years of keeping score and learning the game for the Jonesboro Cricket Club. Their hard work wasn’t unnoticed as Kishan was offered an opportunity late last Summer to join the USCA’s U17 team for its tour of India.

Four months later in November, after attending a tournament in Houston, Sam also earned himself a spot on the U17 tour team.

“Kishan had been in the circuit for a while now - people have recognized him for about three years now,” Junior Das said. “Sam, we went to a tournament on Thanksgiving weekend in Houston, and Sam had a breakout tournament. We got calls left and right.”

While they were excited about the opportunity, there was a small problem. The tour took place from Dec. 18 through Jan. 5, which is very much out of season for cricket players in Arkansas.

Fortunately, Junior Das said the people at Routine Baseball Instruction let the duo train in their indoor facility. He said it was a big help to be able to train indoors.

“They are good friends of ours and they opened their building to us. They opened it up and these boys trained tremendously over there,” Das said.

After a couple of months of hard work, the trip to India began with an 18-hour flight from New York to Ahmadabad, India.

With a 12-hour time difference, jet lag was a factor, and Kishan said the level of play was even higher than he had expected.

“I was very nervous. You don’t know how good you are going to do, and if you don’t do good, they are not going to want you anymore,” Kishan said. “It’s difficult, but I ended up doing really good. They made me captain after a couple of games.”

Being captain is extremely important in cricket. The captain is basically the coach on the field and is called on to make decisions for the team.

Sam also showed he could hang with some of the best young players in India during the tour.

They got the chance to play against great players, and got the opportunity to play in an international level cricket stadium, which is comparable to the size of baseball stadiums in the United States.

The cousins were so good that they have already been invited to attend another tour in Guyana, South America. While school might not allow them to attend the Guyana tour, their trip to India was unforgettable.

They are now in the pool of players that will one day represent the United States at the full international level.

After getting a taste of being a full-time cricket player, Kishan and his cousin are eager for more.

“I hope we can keep going,” Kishan said.

___

Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com


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