The Ananta Premier League (APL) has brought a great competitive spirit to the game of cricket in Anantapur over the past few years. It has been running successfully for five straight seasons now, since its inception in 2010/11, thanks to the support of Rural Development Trust (RDT) through the Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) Cricket program, in partnership with the Anantapur District Cricket Association (ADCA) and the Andhra Cricket Association (ACA).
The league began with the participation of 12 teams in its first season, however, this year, participation has gone up to 22 teams. Apart from this, there are quite a number of teams that also train young girls. The APL has incorporated the interest of the girls in and around Anantapur and decided to open the league to the girls from this season’s competition. This initiative gave women’s cricket in Anantapur a much-needed boost, and as many as nine girls’ teams participated in the competition.
The teams participating in this season’s competition came from all around the district of Anantapur and the league stages were hosted at multiple locations in the district, including the Anantapur Sports Village (ASV). However, the knockout stages of the APL were hosted solely at the ASV, owing to the infrastructure available and the efficiency of the operations thanks to RDT.
After the league stages, the APL for boys saw a three-tier knockout phase, with the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the finals being played out. The APL for girls, on the other hand, went through a two-tier knockout phase with only the semi-finals and the finals.
The APL Girls final was played between Anantapur and Atmakur, with the latter putting up a total of 96 for 8 in their allotted 20 overs. Atmakur then came back strongly to restrict the Anantapur girls 25 runs short of their target at 71 for 7. The APL Boys finals had Gandlapenta against the hosts ASA Academy, with Gandlapenta setting a target of 167 off 50 overs. The ASA Academy made this seem easy, taking the title with a 7 wicket win in the final.
The highlight of the APL for the 2015/16 season was a tiny little gem, a highly spirited nine-year-old off- spinner, M. K. Lohith Sai, who despite his extremely short stature and deceptive appearance, played his first season making some simple yet effective contributions with the ball.
The ASA Academy coach A. Yugandhar Reddy spoke highly of the lad sharing that “He is only nine but shows great potential, along with the spirit to come out to play irrespective of his age and size, being relatively shorter than most boys his age. We are considering to have him live and train full time at the ASV. As far as the league is concerned, we look forward to having more teams join the league, hopefully making it 30 for the boys and 15 for the girls next year. Eventually we are looking to have all 63 mandals of the Anantapur district playing in the league as our long-term goal.”