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Italy has the belief to go all the way, says Crowley

Crowley says cricket is played throughout Italy and the sport is gaining momentum

Italy will be hoping for a top six finish at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier UAE 2013 (WT20Q) after winning the regional qualifier, the ICC European Division 1 Twenty20 Championship earlier this year to progress to the event in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Led by 24-year-old Damian Crowley, the side is confident of a good showing in the WT20Q, which runs from 15-30 November.  

“After winning the ICC European Division 1 T20 Championship in Sussex, the squad believes that we deserve our spot in the ICC World T20 Qualifiers. After the tournament, the players returned back to their home cities to play in the local leagues and prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the upcoming tour. 

“In Italy, the bulk of the players have been training with the assistance of Italy’s assistant coach, Kelum Perera. They have just finished off the season and are ready to compete. Unfortunately, the squad does not have the luxury of attending a pre-tournament training camp, so we will have to get the most out of our two warm up games and trainings in the UAE.  

“Luckily, the team has remained relatively unchanged since Sussex so we are familiar with each other’s game and the national team game plans,” He said.  

The side is placed in Group A alongside Namibia, Canada, Uganda, USA, Hong Kong, UAE and current champion Ireland. 

The 24-year-old believed that his side will be up for a stiff challenge in the competition. “Ireland, as favourites and defending champions of this tournament, will be our most formidable opposition. Namibia, Canada and the UAE compete in the World Cricket League Championship and have a competitive advantage in that they are familiar opponents. We as a side do not look to contain any single player but rather stick to our plans and contain the team as a whole.” 

Speaking of the team set-up for the event, Crowley added: “We welcome back Gareth Berg for this tournament. He proved to be an asset to the Italian squad in last year’s qualifiers in Dubai. Being a contracted professional cricketer in England (Berg plays for Middlesex), he brings with him much experience and expertise to the side. 

“The other two newcomers, Madupa Fernando and Sujith Rillagodage, have earned their selection thanks to hard work coupled with good performances for their respective clubs in Italy. Madupa provides us with more depth in our spin attack and Sujith as another wicket keeping option.”

Crowley was born in Cape Town, but represents Italy by virtue of his Italian lineage: “My grandmother, Margarita Mancini, was born in Rimini on the east coast of Italy. Her family later immigrated to South Africa, where I was born and raised. 

“However, my grandmother kept the Italian culture alive in our household and we made frequent trips back to Italy. I was able to join the Italian team after completing the ICC’s required qualification processes.”

Crowley also explained how cricket is played in Italy: “Cricket is played throughout Italy and the sport is gaining momentum. The Federazione Cricket Italia is working hard to develop the sport and raise awareness. There are three leagues of men’s cricket currently, where regional clubs compete against other regions. 

“At a junior level, each club is providing training camps and clinics to school children in their respective areas. This has resulted in an increase in junior cricketers nationwide. During the winter months the Federazione has provided three training facilities in Rome, Bologna and Milan in order to allow national players and promising young players year-round development.”

The all-rounder admitted it would be a big achievement for Italian cricket should the side finish in the top six and ultimately qualify for the ICC World Twenty20 Bangladesh in 2014. “This is the highest form of cricket that Italy has competed in and we are excited for the challenges that lie ahead. Competing in tournaments like these provides exposure and experience to the national team and Italian cricket. 

“We are familiar with the Zayed Cricket Stadium as we played there last year in the Qualifier; however, we have not played at the other two grounds so it is difficult to comment on the pitches. 

“It would be a reward for all the many years of developing the game in Italy by the Federazione. We, as a country and national team, have worked incredibly hard to reach a cricketing standard where we can compete in tournaments such as this.

“As captain, I’m so proud of our achievements thus far and to make it through to the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh would be a dream come true for all those involved in cricket in Italy.” 

Italy will play its first match of the tournament against Hong Kong on15 November at Abu Dhabi Oval 1.

Italy – Damian Crowley (captain), Alessandro Bonora, Gareth Berg, Dilan Fernando, Madupa Fernando, Tharindu Fernando, Gayashan (Shan) Munasinghe, Dinidu Marage, Andy Northcote, Vincenzo Pennazza, Joy Perera, Peter Petricola, Mick Raso, Sujith Rillagodage, Carl Sandri

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