By John L. Aaron
Atlantis Cricket Club – NY, last Saturday night held its gala annual event at the John F. Kennedy Plaza Hotel in Jamaica, New York, honoring USA national men’s cricket coach Clayton Lambert, along with former Guyana and Atlantis club player Vibert Durjan, and several of the club’s 2010 outstanding players.

With some male guests resplendent in tuxedos and ladies equally stunning in evening wear, it was a hive of energy and activity marking the organization’s 44th anniversary as a cricket club in the New York metropolitan area. The sold-out black-tie event saw several in the New York cricketing community stepping out in style to help the club celebrate 44 years of being…more than just cricket! Among those in attendance were the New York Regional representative to the USA Cricket board Krish Prasad and Mrs. Dolly Prasad, along with the New York City Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) program’s Cricket Commissioner Bassett Thompson and the PSAL’s Administrative Assistant and Cricket Coordinator Ms. Lorna Austin, along with American College Cricket President Lloyd Jodah.

The evening’s main honoree Clayton Benjamin Lambert, a former Guyana and West Indies Test player and former USA player and now USA’s head coach, addressed the dinner guests on some of the issues facing the growth and development of USA national cricket teams, in a sports environment somewhat foreign to cricket. Lambert cited some of the difficulties in selecting the best eligible national team, as opposed to the “people’s choice.” He opined that selecting fourteen players was a very complex and at times frustrating task, based on the International Cricket Council’s eligibility requirements.

Lambert lauded the efforts being made by the USA Cricket Association to encourage and support its national teams, along the way. The former hard-hitting left-handed opener and successful right-arm leg-break bowler said that despite a public outcry for a more youthful USA senior men’s team, he felt that a blending of youth and experience was the USA’s best chance for further establishing itself on the international cricket scene.

Granted honorary lifetime membership of Atlantis, Lambert praised the club for the strides it has made over the past 44 years, while reflecting fondly on representing Atlantis on the field over the years, before moving to Atlanta, GA.

Atlantis President Steve Welcome (right) presents Metallica’s CEO Dr. Glendon Archer with a commemorative plaque.

Vibert “Darge” Durjan, a penetrative off-spinner and former Guyana national player, was also awarded Honorary Lifetime Membership of Atlantis. He lamented on missing out on representing the West Indies behind Lance Gibbs, a phenomenal bowler in a field that had little room for more than one exceptional off-spinner in the 60’s. However, the bespectacled Durjan does not hold any grudges against the record Test-bowler Gibbs. On the contrary, he reminisced about playing alongside Gibbs as a member of the Demerara Cricket Club in Guyana and maintaining an ongoing friendship with cricketing legends such as Lance and Clive Lloyd.

Among the evening’s other recipients was Metallica Commodities Corporation, one of Atlantis’ main sponsors. President Steve Welcome presented Metallica’s CEO Dr. Glendon Archer with a plaque acknowledging the support of the corporation over the past five years.

The night however, was reserved for the 2010 cadre of young cricketers who joined Atlantis and excelled on the field. This year more than fifteen players under the age of 22 joined the New York based club, and in the club’s tradition of attracting players from across the global cricketing community.

Hugh Craig, Prashanth Nair and Casper Davis Jr, display their hard-earned hardware.

Atlantis President Steve Welcome noted in his opening remarks the “big deal” that it was for Atlantis to support such an enormous turnover in its player personnel roster in one season, adding it was testimony to the club’s willingness to invest in youth cricketers as the future national representatives of the sport in the USA.

Leading the pack in receiving awards was the 2010 MVP Prashanth Nair a leg-spinner who captured 23 wickets for the season and the Bernice Bouyea Memorial MVP award. The 17-year old also captured the Best Bowling Performance in a Single Match with figures of 5.3-0-16-8, as well as a five-wicket match haul, sharing the latter accolade with fellow teammate Casper Davis, Jr. who also captured the Reggie Aaron Memorial Most Promising Player award.

Nicholas Standford secured the Highest Batting Aggregate and Highest Score in a Single Match awards. Hugh Craig captured the Best Bowling Average for the Season – 7.43 runs per wicket; Zaheer Saffie – the Most Economical Bowling Performance for the Season – 2.13 runs per over, and Ileo Freeman walked away with the Highest Batting Average for the Season – 56.5 runs per inning. The Most Disciplined Player award was earned by pacer Trestan Messina.

Most Outstanding Member Leslie Lewis (left) is congratulated by President Welcome.

Former Atlantis player Leslie “Tulu” Lewis was awarded the 2010 President’s Most Outstanding Member award – reserved for non-playing and non-Executive members. The award is in recognition of the dedication, commitment and outstanding contributions made by an ordinary member of the club, and beyond the call of a mere member.

Former President John Aaron, current Executive Vice President Courtney Legall and Secretary Colin Sandy, received 2010 recognition awards for their supportive roles during the past year.

Part proceeds of the dinner will go to Atlantis’ Shevonne Mentis Educational Scholarship Fund. Since its inception in 2002, the fund has awarded fourteen financial scholarships to college-bound students, as well as a memorial scholarship in the name of Shevonne Mentis at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where Ms. Mentis was a Business major, before perishing in the tragic events of September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center, where she worked.

President Steve Welcome noted that Atlantis strives to maintain its motto “…more than just cricket!” through its community and humanitarian efforts, with projects such as Habitat for Humanity, annual coat and toy drives, and its educational scholarship awards.

Some dinner guests join dancer Cashel Saffire on the floor.

The awards dinner also featured the drawing of a raffle and the awarding of several door prizes, in addition to a solo dance performance by a contemporary interpretative dancer – Ms. Cashel Saffire, performing an Indian Bhangra dance, before encouraging several of the well-appointed ladies to join her in a national flag soca dance rendition.

Immediate past President John Aaron served as the Master-of-Ceremonies for the evening’s gala dinner and awards event.