On the morning of 30 March 2008 at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London, the chief guest, former England Test skipper Mike Gatting flagged off the tournament along with Yogvivek Swami by lighting the divo in the opening ceremony. The biggest tournament so far – with 32 teams participating – Yogi Yuvak Cup 2008 certainly lived up to its reputation. Marking its 10th year and with the new trophy at stake, the history of this glorious tournament has produced not only fantastic cricket for the spectators, but also tension, anxiety, cheers and tears for the participants.
The event sponsor Natwest represented by Sanjay Jethwa and Pravin Khetani along with their team were placed in Group F. Hardly any surprises occured in the first group stages as all the seeded teams went through comfortably. The biggest score of the day was set by India Sevaks A scoring a whopping 236 versus a woeful bowling attack of India Students B. The 2nd round saw the South London derby where their A team triumphed. East A had to fight their way against India Students A with a balanced performance winning by a mere 4 runs.
The quarter final stage loomed and support for Finchley was growing. The chanting from the terraces and the echo resonating in the hall might have lead one to believe that the tournament was being played at Eden Gardens. In a closely contested game, APC fell short to Finchley A for the third year running. The 2nd quarter final was another derby, in which Harrow A comfortably sealed victory against a mediocre total set by Harrow B. The 3rd quarter final saw Leicester brush aside South A with their brilliant fielding and bowling attack, and the last quarter final dashed East A’s hopes as India Sevaks A came out on top with relative ease.
Harrow A – the reigning champions for the last two years – favoured by most to make it a hat-trick were lined up with Finchley A in the first semi-final. This fixture was the repeat of the final from the previous two years. Harrow set the pace early on with some exquisite hitting and reached 107. In reply, Finchley could only manage 70. The other semi-final was a nail biter. Leicester A registered a modest score of 72. In reply, India Sevaks A only had themselves to blame for playing some erratic strokes and suicidal running between the wickets in the early overs. At this stage, Leicester had their tails up and looked set to cruise to the final. However the fifth over turned the game on its head. Leicester lost their discipline in bowling and some fine stroke play got the scoreboard ticking and very fast too. What should have been an easy win for Leicester left their huge fan following disappointed.
In the final, the strongest warriors of recent times went head to head for the prized trophy. Harrow A versus India Sevaks A. India Sevaks A put Harrow A into bat. Their bowling was accurate, precise and ruthless. Harrow A could at most manage only one or two runs per ball. The big hitting seemed to dry up and as the overs ticked along, they lost wickets more frequently then they would have hoped. A relatively low score of 57 was set. For India Sevaks A, this appeared straight forward. Though Harrow tried to restrict their opponents with a late flurry of quick wickets, it was never in doubt who the winners were going to be. India Sevaks A triumphed to take the cup for the third time in ten years.
Big thanks to all the teams who participated and a special mention for Edinburgh, Preston, Ashton, Leicester, Birmingham and Colchester who travelled long distances to participate.
Best batsmen: Ruturaj Suthar
Best bowling team: Leicester A