By Sam Sooppersaud
As early as Wednesday preceding the weekend, the forecasters were predicting serious thunderstorms for the coming Saturday. This, they said, would come in the afternoon. The 26th Annual Indo-Caribbean Federation (ICF) Trophy Game was scheduled to be played on that Saturday. Would the weather knockout the game “before a punch was thrown”? This was the big question for me, and the cricket lovers in the New York metropolitan area. But, for the very positive thinking Ralph Tamesh, the President of the Federation, his words were, “Don’t worry, there won’t be any rain.” I called him no less than three times questioning whether the game should not be rescheduled. He was adamant in his refusal to cancel the game.
Ralph was absolutely correct. Mother Nature smiled on the ICF and cricket lovers and gave us marvelous cricket weather. On the morning of Saturday, August 13, 2016, the sun came out in all its glory. The skies were clear, and blue. There was no sign of a dark cloud. It was a bit on the hot side, but at least, there were no showers to contend with. The 26th Annual Indo-Caribbean Federation Trophy match would be staged as scheduled.
A representative Guyana Xl would do battle against a representative Caribbean Invitational Xl; including two guest players from Pakistan and one from India. On paper the two sides were equally balanced in experience and skills. An exciting game was on hand, and true to the pundits, it was an exciting game with a hair-raising finish.
By 11:00 AM everything was set to go. The players’ tents were pitched, and all the goodies” and beverages were stocked. Nate and his helpers had the field prepared, US umpire Steve Kalloo and Canadian umpire Ashook Brigcoomar, were ready to call “play ball”. At 11:15 AM the two umpires, Captains, Karan Ganesh of Guyana, and Amjad Khan of the Invitational Xl, walked out to the wicket, accompanied by Match Referee, Sam Sooppersaud (yours truly). Amjad spun the coin, Karan called correctly. Guyana opted to take first strike.
The game turned out to be an extremely competitive contest. Towards the end of the second inning one could hardly hear one’s friends, because of the shouts, the cheering and encouragement of the supporters. The batting on each side was like a carbon copy of the other’s batting. On both sides four wickets fell within the first eight overs and with the score on 42 runs, damage control was effectively put in place which allowed the sides to “breathe easier”. I will describe these events more as I get into the details of the game.
Guyana sent out Derek Narine and Muneshwar Patandin. Narine went with the score on 10. Wasim Aslim went for 1, closely followed by Trevor Henry for 2. In the 10th over Patandin was caught for 25. The score at this stage 42 for 4 wickets. With four of its top batsmen back in the showers, the Guyana players and supporters were not too vocal. Would they be able to post a challenging total? A partnership was definitely needed at this juncture. Who would stand tall?
The answer to the above questions came in the forms of Randall Wilson and skipper Karan Ganesh. They settled themselves in, first rotating the strike, and once settled they were more adventurous in their shot selections. Together, the fifth-wicket partnership of the two produced 47 runs. This ended with Ganesh being caught off full toss for 26.
The in form Akshay Homraj joined Wilson, and the two put Guyana on “solid ground”. That sixth-wicket partnership added 84 invaluable runs to the Guyana score. Homraj lost his wicket immediately after reaching his 50.
The game was in a balance at this stage – 173 for 6. But then Krisendat Ramoo joined Wilson. He batted like a man possessed. In the meantime Randall Wilson who was the sheet anchor of his side, began to play more adventurous. With both batsmen now on a mission to score quick runs, the Guyana score mounted. Ramoo outscored Wilson. Out of the 75 run partnership, Ramoo scored 47 runs (2-4’s and 4-6’s) to Wilson’s 23. Wilson would go on to score 88 – a well-played inning by the young man. There were five extras. Guyana had scored 124 runs in their last 15 overs. Their innings ending at 263 for 8 wickets.
The wickets to fall were shared among Naeem Arif (2 for 13), Renwick Batson (2 for 42), Amjad Khan (2 for 18), Inzi Khan (1 for 27) and Faisal Taj (1 for 49)
Having to score 264 runs for victory in 40 overs, was a daunting task, but not unreachable considering the strength of the Invitational Xl’s batting (at least on paper). They had the hard-hitting and high scoring, Faisal Taj, the higher scoring, Amjad Khan, one of only two batsmen who has scored a triple century in the USA. Then there was Troy Mars, a former Public Schools Athletic League run getter from John Adams High School. Troy once score 175 runs in a T20 game. To mention just a few. One or two partnerships, and the game would certainly be over.
However, that would be sort of “counting the chickens before the eggs were hatched!” The fans knew that they were in for a batting treat, an exhibition of batsmanship. Faisal Taj and Jetendra Sookdeo walked out to the middle. Immediately, Sookdeo retreated to the dressing room, bowled by Deveshwari Prashad for a golden duck. Taj followed via the run-out route. It was 2 for 19.
Amjad Khan walked out to the middle to a tumultuous applause. Even his team’s non-supporters wanted to see him “do his thing” with the bat. However, he mistimed a Mark Tyrell fast ball and was bowled for 12. Renwick Batson went for 10, followed by Usman Ashraf (0). Five wickets down, 46 runs on the books. Was this the end for the Invitational Xl?
While wickets were tumbling, former PSAL batsman from Richmond Hill High School, Rafeek Nazeer stood at the other end and watched his mates coming to the wicket and making quick exits. It was 46 for 5, when Troy Mars and Rafeek Nazeer decided to do something about the situation. A sixth-wicket partnership of 140 runs, brought the Invitational XI right back into the game. The alliance ended with Mars being bowled by Mark Tyrell for 79 runs; 5-4’s, 4-6’s. The 7th wicket fell one run later.
It was now 187 for 7. Was this the end, once more? Surely that thought was on the minds of the Invitational XI and their supporters! Nah! Rafeek stepped up his attack on the bowling. Coupled with a mini-cameo inning from Naeem Arif (19 in 8 balls, 2 consecutive 6’s) they pulled themselves out of the jaws of defeat with a 59 runs eight-wicket partnership.
With the fall of Arif’s wicket, 18 runs were needed in 18 balls. Three runs were conceded in the 18th over. Now 12 runs in 12 balls. Tyrell gave up five runs in the penultimate over. It was then 257 for 8. Seven runs was then needed for a win, six balls with which to secure that win. Terrence Madramootoo was given the unenviable job of bowling those fateful six deliveries. First ball, a wide. Still six balls to bowl, six runs for victory.
In the meantime Rafeek Nazeer had kept up adding to his personal score. At the start of the 40th over he was on 94 runs. Would he get his well-deserved ton? Even those supporting the Guyana side wanted him to reach his century. With the wide, six was needed from an equal number of legal deliveries, and Rafeek was at the bowler’s end.
A single. A double, and a single by Rafeek. He was now on 97. Then a double by Rafeek. Two runs was then needed in three balls. A single. A single. One run was needed from two balls. A dot ball. One run needed from the last ball of the over. Would we see a Super Over? Would Rafeek get his ton? It did not seem likely, as he needed three runs for his century.
Madramootoo ran up to the wicket to bowl the final ball of the inning with the score tied on 263. A faster ball. Rafeek pounced on it and sent the ball flying over the head of the mid-off fieldsman. The ball raced to the boundary ropes. Invitational Xl 267 runs and victory! Rafeek Nazeer 101 Not Out, a well-deserved century. The Guyana XI stood there on the field, transfixed.
Cricket was not the only item on the day’s calendar of events. Ralph Tamesh and the ICF had prepared a half-time entertainment show that included the art of Indian dancing. First on stage was Melinda Murphy who performed a classical dance to the tune of “Salam a Karle” from the movie “Umra Jaan”. Next was the Swinging Sean Kulsom who performed two dances with a more stepped up tempo.
Dr. Dhanpaul Narine introduced the Honoree of the Day, former British Guiana cricketer Sunny Basdeo. The former cricketer made it to the BG (British Guiana) side when it was almost impossible for someone of his origin to make it big, due to the socio-cultural politics surrounding the sport during that era. Mr. Basdeo was presented with a plaque acknowledging his contribution to the sport of cricket in Guyana. Lastly, the VIP guest of the day was introduced. The legendary Caribbean and International cricket journalist and commentator, Joseph “Reds” Perreira. He recounted his days as a broadcaster and some of the obstacles he faced, along the way.
The newly-appointed Guyana Council General to New York, the Hon. Barbara Atherly stopped by, and in response to questions from the event’s Master-of-Ceremonies John Aaron, made some brief remarks, recounting her love of cricket growing up in Guyana, and the new Guyana government’s push for social cohesion.
The Consul General complimented the Indo-Caribbean Federation for the work it was doing and the effort of uniting all peoples through the sport of cricket in the New York metropolitan area.
Reds Perreira, in his remarks made special mention of eight year-old Matthew Achaibar, who assisted with the commentary duties of the game. He said that he has never met or heard of an eight year-old who was so involved in, and, so knowledgeable of the game of cricket. He advised that Matthew continue to pursue his commentating hobby.
During the game, and again, after the game, fans and players feasted on a variety of delicious foods: fried rice, chowmein, fried chicken, fish cakes, salads, etc., compliments of the Palm Court Restaurant of Hillside Avenue, Jamaica, and the ICF. It was an enjoyable day for players, fans, family and friends.