Stimulating cricket tournament in honor of Shekhar Aravind

Chicago IL: The first-annual Shekhar Aravind Unity Cup was held over Labor Day weekend, featuring some of the best and most exciting cricket ever seen in the Chicagoland area.

Shekhar “Sheks” Aravind was the young and dynamic President of the Midwest Cricket Conference, whose life was cruelly cut short on August 2nd, 2011 in a tragic boating accident on Lake Michigan. Shekhar’s cricketingfamily decided to honor his memory by making his vision of the Unity Cup a reality – and with only 3 weeks to prepare and organize, led by the tireless and energetic Atif Shaikh and his band of merry voluteers, put on a 12- team cricketing-tournament that was by consensus the best-ever seen in the midwestern states.

Invitations were sent out to all the cricket-leagues in the Central-East region to participate. Representative teams from Michigan Cricket Association, Minnesota Cricket Association, American Cricket Conference (Chicago) and Bolingbrook Premier League (BPL) participated – as did MWCC teams from Wisconsin (the Milwaukee Bucks), and downstate (dubbed the StLouis Rams, featuring players from StLouis, Peoria and Moline). In addition, there was a Under-24 team (the Chicago Cubs), and 4 Chicagoland teams drafted NFLstyle by their captains (the Bulls, Bears, WhiteSox and Fire).

There was crucial sponsorship help provided by major sponsors, without which the tournament would not have been possible. The major sponsor was the MAQ Group featuring “Maq” Qureshi from Florida – a man who has financially aided several of these tournaments over the years in an attempt to improve cricket in the United States, and one who is a candidate for the post of President of the USA Cricket Association this year with the same goal. Allied with the MAQ Group is Dr. Gul, President Cricket Council USA – another major sponsor for this tournament. Apart from providing lots of sponsorship for this tournament, Dr Gul also announced cashprizes for individual performances for the semifinals and finals, which greatly increased the excitement of the players. The Clarion Hotel and Waterford Banquet, Paresh Patel of Patel Travels, Pepper and Salt in Schaumburg who provided delicious food, Level Construction, United Equity Mortgage, Musick Loss Management, Haris Ali Real Estate One,, Best Western Plus, Saahil Boutique – without any of those generous and crucial sponsors, the tournament would not have been possible.

After 12 exciting games spread over 2 days, the teams that emerged into the semifinals on Labor Day were the Chicago Cubs (the U-24 team, captained by Najam Bakshi), Minnesota Cricket Association (captained by Saminda Siriwardena, Chicago Bulls (captained by Bhavesh Amin), and Chicago Bears (captained by Shiraz Najam).

For the semifinals, Dr. Gul and Cricket Council USA sponsored cash prizes, for every six hit by a batsman, and every stump hit by a bowler (ie clean-bowled). This greatly increased the excitement level of the players. The Chicago Bulls played Minnesota, and scored 160 with fifties by young Mannan Patel and veteran Irfan Sohail (both featuring a couple of cash-earning sixes!) Koti Vanga, the paceman from Minnesota, clean-bowled 2 batsmen with similar results. Chasing 160, Minnesota unfortunately suffered a middle-order collapse and ended 40 runs short. It was the end of a terrific tournament for them, however – after driving down 8 hours and losing their first game this weekend on Duckworth-Lewis method, they had chased down 126 in 17 overs to make the knockouts on RunRate, and then upset Chicago Fire in the QuarterFinals with a fantastic chase of 160 – the highest successful chase of the tournament, with their pace bowler Chameera winning Man of the Match (partly for a brilliant 36 at the death, featuring 3 huge sixes).

In the other semifinal, the Young Cubs made 148 with contributions from all their batsmen. In reply the Chicago Bears suffered a top-order collapse at the hands of young Talha Mohsin (who took 2 wickets) and Hassan Khan (who claimed 3). From 51-5 in 10 overs, however, Waqas Abbasi almost brought the Bears home with an aggressive 40*, before the Bears fell short in the end.

So it was onto the finals – and more cash prizes (by Dr Gul and Patel Travels) made a six with $75, and a bowled worth $25. That excitement was just the preliminary however, as the final played under lights for the first-ever Shekhar Aravind Unity Cup featured action, athleticism, brilliant cricket, excitement and literally a thrill-a-minute, and was generally regarded by the large crowd that watched to be maybe the best cricket match any of them have ever attended “live”.

The Bears (captained by Shekhar Aravind’s best friend Bhavesh Amin) batted first – and young Urvish Desai promptly hit 3 consecutive sixes off Talha Mohsin to end the 3rd over! He then hit his 4th consecutive six off the first ball he faced next over – and thus earned $300 over the space of a minute-and-a-half – surely the most profitable 2 minutes for any cricketer in United States Cricket history! Urvish put up a rapid 30, the everreliable Mannan Patel scored another 33, Nirav Patel and Nirav Amin contributed their mite with aggressive 20s, and the Bears scored an imposing 158. It could have been more – but the last over featured more excitement, as a six-hit by Nirav Amin was followed by Moin Babar hitting the stumps 3 times in 4 balls (earning $75 for himself from Cricket Council USA and Dr. Gul).

Chasing a big target of 159 under lights, the Under-24 Cubs came out brilliantly – they were at 42-1 in 5 overs, featuring a couple of fours and terrific running between the wickets. Fahad Babar got an excellent 50 to put Cubs on track, and then Raghu Kanchikeri and captain Najam Bakshi had a wonderful partnership to put them in control. Both Raghu and the southpaw Najam continued running well, but also countered the spin of Bhavesh and Nirav Amin wonderfully – Raghu using his feet particularly well (and lofting a beautiful six over longon). Back came the Bulls with Mannan and Charlie Patel however – Charlie had a direct-hit runout off Najam Bakshi that seemed to turn the game, and Mannan drew an edge from Raghu that was taken very well by keeper Preetam Nanga.

Back-and-forth it went – 32 to win in 4 overs, with 4 wickets in hand… and then Charlie had an unbelievable pinpoint throw from the deep-midwicket boundary straight into keeper-Preetam’s gloves, for another runout. Nirav Amin bowled an excellent over for only 4 runs – 20 to win in 2 overs with 3 wickets in hand. Bhavesh’s next over yielded only 4 runs off 5 balls with 1 wicket, the game was sliding towards the Bulls.. but then off the last ball, Moin Babar swung a crucial six!

10 needed off the last over with 2 wickets in hand, and Mannan Patel to bowl. Hard running, twos being taken, a near-catch. Down to 5 runs needed off 3 balls – and Charlie Patel held another brilliant catch at the boundary to dismiss Hassan. 5 to win off 2 balls with the last-man in…but Moin Babar was facing, and he swung another one-bounce four! Scores tied with 9-wickets down on the last ball – all the fielders brought in – and Moin managed to clear the infield to seal the game!

It was the most thrilling game imaginable, won on the last ball with 1 wicket in hand. And it was the most fitting tribute possible to the memory of Shekhar Aravind – with his best friend captaining (and some former teammates playing) on one side, and the Youth Team (which he held so dear to his heart, and promoted so strongly at every turn) on the other. And the two combined to put on the most amazing display of cricket in the final, with the younger side winning out on the very last ball in the end.

Due to the terrific sponsorship of Cricket Council USA and “Maq” Qureshi, medals were handed out to the man-of-the-match of every game of the tournament, as well as to all individual players on both sides in the finals.

Man of the Match for the Finals: “Babar Brothers” – Fahad Babar for his highest-score of the finals, and Moin Babar for his 3 wickets in the last over, as well as critical 19 runs to win the thriller at the end.

A “Sunny Tonny” bat from “Cricket Merchant”, for the highest Under-24 rungetter of the tournament:

Mannan Patel
MVP of the Tournament: Mannan Patel
Highest Rungetter of the Tournament: Mannan Patel
Individual Man of the Match awards for the tournament were won by:
Raghu Kanchikeri (quarterfinals), Faisal Nafasat (quarterfinals), Chameera (quarterfinals), Bhavesh Amin (quarterfinals)
Airaj, Asif Rangoonwala, Darshan Patel, Zohaid, Yasheb Rajpar, Charlie Patel, Mannan Patel and Najam Bakshi (league games).

Bhavesh Amin received the runners-up trophy, and captain Najam Bakshi received the grand Shekhar Aravind Unity Cup winners trophy from Dr. Gul and Maq Qureshi.

Cricket Council USA and Dr. Gul invited the winning team to participate in the US Open this December in Florida, and offered to pay the $1500 registration fee. The US Open will offer a $50,000 grand prize for the tournament champion.

The organizers have promised that, with the grand success of this first-ever Shekhar Aravind Unity Cup, they will make it an even bigger event featuring greater prizes next year and in the years to come. Cricket Council USA promised a cash-prize of $10,000 for the winning team next year for this tournament, which will greatly aid the organizers in their goal of making this annual event the highlight of the midwestern cricketing calendar, to honor the name of their dear departed leader.

More details about the matches and the tournament (including links to pictures and interviews) can be found at

Photographs by: Asian Media USA
Press release by: Midwest Cricket

Suresh Bodiwala
Asian Media USA
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