By John L. Aaron
A beautiful cricket moment occurred at the conclusion of the only Sheffield vs. Atlantis cricket match this season at Floyd Bennett Cricket Field in Brooklyn, NY. It was not the jubilation often associated with a championship victory or even the presentation of an MVP award. It was a Most Valuable Moment, which may have inspired a few young cricketers present.
The two teams – Atlantis Cricket Club – NY and Sheffield Cricket Club, competing in the 40-overs Clement “Busta” Lawrence Premier League tournament in the NY Metropolitan District Cricket Association fixture, enjoy the support of scores of fans of Demerara (DCC) and Maltenoes cricket clubs respectfully. The latter two clubs are domiciled in Guyana, and enjoy a rivalry dating back almost 100 years. The clubs, most notably DCC, have produced many regional and West Indian cricketers of caliber, and have long been conduits for players migrating from Guyana to the USA.
The outcome of the Atlantis vs. Sheffield match-up was of little significance, although Sheffield did win the encounter. The 9-2 Atlantis had already advanced to the play-offs of the tournament, while 4-7 Sheffield failed to make the play-off round. Outside of the scheduled match organized by Sheffield and Maltenoes’ Dr. Linden Dodson, was an opportunity to remember someone as large as the game of cricket in the cricketing Diaspora of Guyana – Andrew “Monster” Lyght (1956-2001), a former member of the Demerara Cricket Club, and a passionate batsman.
It is often said that Monster – a moniker given him by virtue of his appetite for batting and how difficult it was to get him out; it was as if he was haunting the bowlers. It’s unfortunate that Andrew Lyght never went on to represent the West Indies’ senior team, and that was a loss for the West Indies.
Described by former DCC club member Keith Aaron, as being extremely passionate about the sport of cricket; especially batting, Monster would often pay slight regard to the conditions of the pitch and simply wanted to bat always, whether his team had won the toss or not.
Aaron remembers Andrew Lyght playing in his debut first-division match for DCC and scoring 44 in a low-scoring game, but finding his place among a star-studded set of Guyana national players. A slightly built teenager at the time, Monster did not have a lot of power in his shots, but along the way would eventually impress many a seasoned cricketer.
“I was very impressed with his performance because he carried his bat through the inning, and was maybe the last to get out. He hit no boundaries and probably only a couple of doubles, but his discipline and concentration were evident. I remember saying that he would get far because it was easier to teach a batsman the technical aspects of the craft than to inculcate in him the discipline to bat under difficult circumstances,” recalls Keith Aaron.
As his name became a household one in Guyana’s cricket, Andrew Lyght’s game developed rapidly with an aggressive approach to batting, stroke play and fielding. He showed tremendous heart as he courageously batted against the best bowlers of Guyana at the time. Although he was aggressive in his approach to batting, it was obvious that he had tremendous discipline and powers of concentration for a player so young.
Keith Aaron noted, “He loved to bat and it seemed as though there were no conditions that he felt were unsuitable for batting. In fact, his team mates used to tease him by saying that he should never be consulted for his opinion when we won the toss, because he would always want his team to bat first.”
With younger players on both Atlantis and Sheffield teams, some of whom have played for DCC and Maltenoes in Guyana, it was only fitting that the virtues of such a fine player as Andrew Lyght were extolled in the presence of many players his age, when he played at his peak. The players stood around in a circle and listened to former players such as Keith Aaron and Dr. Linden “Doc” Dodson, as the two gentlemen recalled moments they had spent in the presence of Andrew Lyght. It was obvious that the legacy of the Monster was having an impact on the younger players gathered at Floyd Bennett Field at the conclusion of the match which doubled up as an Andrew “Monster” Lyght Memorial Game, complete with a trophy to be competed for between the two teams every year, with the team winning three matches outright keeping the trophy.
Delivering a very poignant memory of Andrew Lyght as a cricketer and human being, Keith Aaron, a former Guyana youth cricket and Colts captain said, “Monster would willingly play any role that was asked of him without question. I never heard him criticize or blame another player for any errors. He was always supportive and willingly accepted responsibility for the performance of the team. I remember how he cried when we lost a game by one run against a Guyana Police Cricket XI. He opened the batting and got out early. However, we were chasing only 122 and blame could easily have been directed at any of us who followed him, since we only needed two more runs to win. Yet Monster insisted that he was to blame.” The very successful 1968 Guyana youth captain added, “I am sure that any of Andrew’s teammates from the Guyana youth teams, Guyana National teams, and the West Indies ‘A’ team, would corroborate my observations that he was an unselfish and supportive teammate.”
As a human being, Andrew Lyght was also humble and never made any demands for special treatment when he returned from an overseas tour to play for his club. He was the type of person who would fly back in the morning and play for his club in the afternoon. Such a passionate and unselfish cricketer is often hard to find.
As a cricketer, Andrew “Monster” Lyght represented DCC, Guyana’s Under-19, West Indies Under-19, Demerara County, Guyana, and the Guyana National XI. He played for five years in the English County leagues during the 1980s, and as an opening batsman he was often compared to such greats as Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. However, in his 44 years of life he represented the good in many of us, the determination to survive and the spirited discipline needed when faced with adversity.
Diagnosed with cancer in the mid-1990s, Andrew Lyght doggedly fought the disease ravaging his body. He would eventually adopt a Rastafarian lifestyle, in hopes that eating natural herbs and no meat would prolong his life and cricketing career – and it did. Keith Aaron recalls, “Some might say that the game of cricket is a useful metaphor for life itself. By the way in which he dealt with adversity, Andrew provided strong evidence in support of this view. As a batsman he was bold and disciplined, and regardless of the odds against him, he never gave up but fought to the end. He demonstrated these same attributes in his battle against cancer.”
Diagnosed with a localized malignant tumor in his late twenties or early thirties. The tumor was removed and the doctors thought his chances for long-term survival were good. A few years later, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to other parts of his body and the prognosis was not good. After trying different treatments in England, he got progressively weaker. The doctors said there was nothing more they could do, so Monster returned to Guyana.
Despite his weakened condition, he vowed to play cricket again. That was who Andrew Lyght was, the embodiment of spirit and cause. He gradually improved in strength and restarted his cricket career.
Keith Aaron noted how fortunate he was to personally witness the return of the Monster, “I was lucky to see him make his first century during his recovery period. Since he had not yet returned to his full strength, it reminded me of that first game he played for DCC as a slightly built underdeveloped teenager. Power strokes had not returned but it was obvious that he had never lost his grit, determination and fighting spirit; he had just diverted them to the battle against cancer.”
Despite his prowess as an aggressive stroke player, Andrew “Monster” Lyght may be best remembered for his fight off the field of cricket, and inspiring others faced with similar adversities in life.
Andrew Lyght lost his battle with cancer in 2001. He was 44 years old.
His friend Keith Aaron summed it up best, “Andrew lived a simple life for about a decade after his recovery, playing the game he loved, and without words, infecting those around him with his sportsmanship, team spirit, generosity and determination.”
And so, some of the youngsters huddled around a simple trophy on a table at Floyd Bennett Field, learned who Andrew “Monster” Lyght was, but more importantly about life’s lesson and the determination to fight on, no different from a batsman getting bogged down in an inning by a bowler determined to uproot the sticks behind him.
May Andrew “Monster” Lyght continue to Rest in Peace.