Cup crusader Abbatangelo leads indigenous charge

Ben Abbatangelo has had a busy summer. Aside from playing with Victorian Premier Cricket club Northcote, he captained Victoria in the 20th annual Imparja Cup last month.

The Imparja Cup, played in Alice Springs from February 17-23, pitted the country's best indigenous cricketers against each other in a series of Twenty20 matches.

Victoria has never won the title but came agonisingly close this year, missing out on the final because of a poor run rate.

Victoria, known as Noogal Toengorrt Tani in the tournament, beat eventual champions Queensland in its first match but losses to New South Wales and Western Australia meant Queensland and New South Wales contested the final.

Abbatangelo says it was a disappointing end to a promising tournament for the Victorians. "We'd never beaten Queensland before and we beat them quite convincingly," he says. "But the match against Western Australia was the difference between making the final and not making it.

"The tournament is getting bigger and bigger and getting much more recognition, which is good because there are some seriously, seriously good cricketers playing."

Abbatangelo's indigenous heritage comes from his mother's side, part of the Yorta Yorta people around the Shepparton area. He says the Imparja Cup is a highlight on the calendar each year.

"Everyone hangs out for it because it's only once a year," he says. "It's an unbelievable trip and a lot of preparation and organisation goes into it.

"It's awesome to go up there and showcase your talents against the other states."

Abbatangelo was also selected for the Cricket Australia under 23 indigenous development squad, which will play matches later this year at CA's Centre of Excellence in Brisbane.

"It's not quite as extreme as last year when we travelled to India but it's going to be great," he says.

Abbatangelo also plays with Northcote in premier cricket, though there hasn't been as much to cheer about for the Dragons in season 2012-13. To date the first XI has only had two wins, but put in one of its best batting performances of the season on Saturday to set up what could be a last-round win.

Abbatangelo has drifted between the first and second XI teams and has made 326 runs for the season at an average of 21.73. He scored a century against Dandenong in December last year.

"It is an extremely young club but if we can finish off the year strongly then hopefully we'll head into next season with a lot of confidence," he says.

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