By John L. Aaron
The name Debo Sankar is synonymous with cricket in the New York metropolitan area, and has been that way for more than two decades. Born Deochan Ramjattan, Debo Sankar, as he is known in the cricketing community, started playing cricket at age 12 in his native Guyana; and under the watchful eyes of his father.
As a young cricket in his native Guyana, Debo’s idol was the legendary Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar. Much like his diminutive Mumbai-born idol who was the first to reach 10,000 Test runs and reach 30 centuries in the 70s and 80s, Debo developed and attacking style of cricket similar to Gavaskar, while maintaining a defensive posture that has bothered many bowlers.
As an opening batsman and wicket-keeper, Debo Sankar’s style matched that of his childhood 5’ 5” idol, hooking and pulling to all parts of the cricket grounds he has played on in the New York area, mimicking the style of the former Indian Test cricketer. It is not surprising that later in his cricketing career, and with Gavaskar hanging up his international cricket boots, Debo turned his focus on another Indian cricketing star of similar stature and style – Sachin Tendulkar.
Moving to New York in 1995, Debo Sankar quickly aligned himself with Richmond Hill Cricket Club, which was established five years earlier in the Richmond Hill area of Queens County in New York. The emerging star was emulating the role of his father as a wicket-keeper batsman. He would master that role as a very dependable right-handed batsman, traveling up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States, playing cricket at the highest levels and posting scores reflective of his commitment to the sport and the honing of his skills.
If India’s Sachin Tendulkar is known as, “The Little Master,” then Debo Sankar, by his stature alone and contributions to the success of his Richmond Hill club, could easily be acknowledged as the “Little Master” of The Cage at Baisley Pond Park, a venue where many of Richmond Hill Cricket Club’s matches have been staged over the years. Getting his feet into place and punching errant balls through the covers, or hooking deliveries thorough backward square-leg are signature shots associated with one of Richmond Hill’s most prolific batsmen of the past decade.
Debo Sankar exhibits the attitude that reflects failure as an unacceptable option. He would marry the very beautiful and equally diminutive Lelowtie Indira Jagdeo with the couple producing one daughter, and ultimately an adorable granddaughter. The family still resides in Queens, NY where Debo continues to represent Richmond Hill Cricket Club in the Eastern American Cricket Association (EACA).
In the early 90s, Debo Sankar starred in the premier New York first-class Red Stripe cricket tournament, representing Guyana against very talented opponents from other Caribbean nations like Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and the Leeward and Windward Islands. Those representative teams featured players who had played at the highest levels of the sport in their native countries. As a recreational cricketer playing at a semi-professional level, Debo Sankar has played the US Cricket Open in Florida, as well as several invitational cricket tournaments and single match events in the United States.
Debo laments the fact that there are so many talented cricketers who have fallen at the mercy of cricket administrators and poor governance of the sport at the national level in the USA. He says if he was in charge, he would promote 20/20 cricket, because it’s a fast-paced game and very entertaining for the fans and sponsors alike. He would also like to see day/night 20/20 matches played in the USA. The stylish and debonair wicket-keeper batsman is equally flamboyant behind the stumps, as he is in front of them. He has delighted fellow cricketers and fans alike on many Sunday afternoons at The Cage – a watering hole of sorts for many batsmen with a penchant for going over the top, much to the chagrin of those parked nearby.
With more than 30 centuries to his credit, Debo Sankar has crisscrossed the New York cricket landscape with two and three-year stints respectively, in the Commonwealth and New York Nassau cricket leagues, before settling back into the EACA. During his two-decade cricket sojourn, he has competed in the New York Red Stripe and Cricket Council USA tournaments, among others. With his wife Indira; a very competent first-class scorer by his side, and supporting his every cricketing endeavor, Debo Sankar who recently turned 50, has received the matrimonial support many cricketers envy, as they go about etching their names into the annals of New York cricket.
Debo Sankar’s contribution to the sport of cricket is not limited to his personal achievements alone, he has been imparting his knowledge of the game to the next generation of cricketers, voluntarily coaching more than 30 youngsters, all of whom are less than one-third his age. An invaluable contribution in an era, when cricket is struggling to get a permanent foothold in a country inundated with so many other sports. He can be seen indoor and outdoor transferring his more than three decades of knowledge to the eager young participants.
There is no doubt that Debo Sankar’s voluntary contributions as a cricket coach and mentor during the summer months, is an invaluable resource for area youth in the parks and local school children. His commitment to his club and the sport is also reflected in his willingness to help prepare the ground and wicket at The Cage for home matches, and his civic-mindedness is reflected in his helping with garbage disposal at the park, long after most of the other cricketers have left.
With a vertical and wide leaping stance of more than two feet off the ground following a dismissal, or during an appeal from behind the stumps, Debo Sankar displays his unbridled enthusiasm, in contrast to his debonair approach of punching through the covers, while making a statement from in front of the stumps.