By Sam Sooppersaud
At the present moment cricket in the United States is “under trial”. The International Cricket Council (ICC) with input from the IOC, is working feverishly, creating and structuring a national governing body to administer cricket in this country. Our previous national body, United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) “did not make the grade,” to put it in academic parlance. Since the ouster of USACA from the ICC, the US cricket has been given a new birth. A constitution has been ratified. A structure for the governing body is in place. Processes for the inaugural elections are being shaped and reshaped. Once elections are held the new national body will be in place, working to gain Associate Membership status with the ICC, and to work toward improving the game here.
It is the hope of cricket lovers throughout the USA that everyone who loves this game would work hard and do their best to ensure that this time around, “cricket goes somewhere”. I am saying this because, I have heard numerous naysayers predict that “cricket is going nowhere.”. I am asking all in the cricket fraternity to prove those negative thinking groupies wrong. There is already “talk” that USA Cricket cannot do for cricket what USACA was unable to do: That is to lift our game to higher levels. Let’s prove that kind of thinking wrong.
The New York City Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL), through its hard working administrators and cricket lovers, have taken up the task of improving cricket in this country. Cricket Administrator Lorna Austin, Cricket Commissioner Bassett Thompson, and Assistant Cricket Commissioner Ricky Kissoon, are doing a “yeoman” job with the cricket program in NYC high schools. This program has been in effect for over a decade and the fan base has grown by “leaps and bounds”. Fans are turning up at games in large numbers to watch the best youth prospects perform on the cricket field.
Over the years numerous “PSAL cricket graduates” have moved on to greater heights. Al present many are playing in the senior cricket leagues around NYC. Some have represented the USA in ICC tournaments. There are a few past PSAL players who travel around the US representing franchises in various semi-professional Twenty20 tournaments. So the NYC PSAL is doing its part to grow cricket in the USA.
On Monday, June 25, 2018, the PSAL wrapped up its 2018 cricket season with the staging of its Annual Mayor’s Trophy Game, at the Baisley Pond Park Cricket Field in Queens, New York. This game is synonymous with the All-Stars games in professional baseball, football, and basketball. The moniker is Best in the City. And, that is exactly what fans at the game witnessed – the very best players in the PSAL cricket program. Youngsters from across all the participating schools were eligible for selection. Selection was, of course, performance based. The game was originally scheduled to be played on Saturday, June 23, but was rescheduled due to a bleak weather forecast for that day. It turned out that that day was an ideal cricket day. No rain fell. I guess it’s one of those things that give tournament administrators more headaches!
The teams in the Mayor’s Trophy Game Were The Blues Team, comprising of players from Brooklyn, Manhattan, and The Bronx. The Orange Team is made up of players from Queens. A note: the two schools involved in the finals last weekend were from Queens: John Adams and Jamaica High Schools This would give the initial impression, from the outset, that The Orange XI was a superior team than The Blue XI. But, bear in mind, that the players were selected on the strength of their performances during the season. So each side had players who had performed exceedingly well. Batsman to batsman and bowler to bowler, the stats were competitive, on both sides. The coaches were Lomarshan Persaud (Richmond Hill) and Gregory Fisher (FDR) for The Blue XI and Mithum Nankishore (Jamaica) and Alex Navarette (John Adams) for The Orange XI. Umpires Wilton Ricketts and Mohammed Baksh, jr, officiated in the middle. In attendance were PSAL cricket officials, Lorna Thompson, Bassett Thompson, and Ricky Kissoon.
Although it was a low scoring game, it was not without its moments of excitement. Although only two batsmen got scores above the 30-run mark, and no bowler got a personal best of more than two wickets, spectators were treated to a good game of cricket. We saw some glorious shots, excellent fielding and catching, and some very tight bowling. The crowd of over 400, had a great time. Mother Nature cooperated and gave us gorgeous cricket weather. The sun was hot, but the cooling breeze made it bearable to sit out in the open and enjoy the game. As usual Lenny Achibar and Carl Bennett were in the commentary box calling the ball by ball plays. What a way to spend a Monday afternoon!
Now on to the game itself. The Blue Team took first knock and lost its first wicket in the second over with the score on 10. By the end of the fifth over they were in dire trouble at 4 for 19. Then Moin Khan and Taahaa Warraich got together and put on a 62-run partnership. That ended with Taahaa being caught on the fence trying to go over. He mads 19 runs. The # 7 man in, Ashraf Hossein joined Khan and put on a valuable 30 runs before Ashraf was bowled by Tamesh Persaud for 17. In between the fall of wickets, Moin Khan was entertaining the fans with some exhilarating shots. He was timing the ball and hitting with power. His 50 came up with a glorious drive through the extra cover boundary. Khan was eventually stumped for a well-made and deserved 53. The innings ended at 115 for 8 wickets.
For the Orange, three bowlers, Akash Arafat, Redman Ahmed, and Avin Gangadin, captured two wickets apiece for 11, 19, and 9 runs respectively. Tamesh Persaud, 1 for 13 and Umer Shahzad, 1 for 23. The bowlers were ably supported by some fine fielding and catching.
Needing 118 for victory the Orangemen sent out Tamesh Persaud (0) and Akash Arafat to commence the chase. Tamesh was back in the showers on the second ball he faced from the fiery pacer, Saad Awan. After a mini partnership of 29 runs, Rabbi Chowdhury went for 1. They lost their third wicket with the score on 51. Then Akash and Skipper Avin Gangadin joined in a 24-run effort. They were striking the ball with forceful precision. Gangadin, a former Guyana National Under-15 player, played some elegant off drives; which by the way, seemed more exciting when played by a left handed batsman. Just when it seemed that the two would bring the game home, Avin was caught on the deep mid-wicket boundary, trying to hoist the bowler over the ropes. He made 22. Akash followed shortly, bowled by Moin Khan for 33 runs. Redman Ahmed (10) and Rafe Minhajul (13), came together with the score 91 for 5. They brought their team victory with and unbroken partnership of 27 runs.
The batting hero of their side, Moin Khan, again served his team well by capturing two wickets for 19 runs. Saad Awan, Taahaa Warraich, and Ayaz Ally, one wicket each for 25, 11, and 28 runs, respectively.
At an impromptu ceremony the PSAL, as in past years, honored each member of both squads with a medal, for taking part in this prestigious game. Also, awards were presented to individual players for their outstanding performances during the season, in various categories: Most Wickets, Most Runs, Centurions, Best Bowling figures, Hat-tricks, etc. Lastly, the winning trophy was presented to the victorious Orange Team. Coach Alex Navarette accepted the trophy on behalf of his team. After a brief “speech session” a delicious catered dinner was enjoyed by all.
Cricket fans, see you guys next year!