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The inaugural Rockaway T20 New York Cricket Fiesta held last year was a gem in the making. The four-nation (Bangladesh, Guyana, Pakistan and Trinidad & Tobago) tournament added much glitz and excitement to the New York cricket calendar. It was a much welcomed event and received rave reviews for the level of competition displayed and the attention to detail by the organizing committee.
Sponsored by the Rockaway Group of Companies in Queens, NY and its CEO Hafeez Ali, the annual tournament was off to a flying start, with local cricketers representing their countries of origin and wearing colored uniforms that reflected the colors of their respective countries. Several of the players had previously represented their individual countries at the national levels, which made for a very competitive tournament. With so much bragging rights at stake, no effort was spared to bring out the best in the players; for some of whom this would have been the first and only chance to represent their country of birth.
The eight-week tournament was reminiscent of the Red Stripe and Ed Ahmad Cup tournaments of the late 90s in New York City, featuring mainly representative teams from the Caribbean and South Asia. The Rockaway T20 recreated an exciting atmosphere conducive to competitive cricket and a family-oriented environment, ideal for all families and all fans alike. There were giveaways and monetary awards for fans pulling in one-handed sixes, batsmen rewarded for hitting individual sixes, as well as individual performance and Man-of-the-Match awards.
Last year’s tournament was graced with the presence of celebrities such as former Guyana and West Indies batsman Joe Solomon and The Hon. Ms. Urvashi Ramnarine, Trinidad & Tobago’s Acting Consul General in New York.
This year, the tournament dubbed Rockaway T20 New York Cricket Fiesta 2.0, promises to be even more exciting with India, Jamaica, and a New York Select XI joining a trio of last year’s teams: Bangladesh, Guyana and Pakistan. With an abundance of talent representing the First XI’s of the participating teams, the organizing committee, this year, provided a slot for top quality players not selected to represent any of the participating countries, but still wishing to get in on the action. It’s a tremendous platform for some extraordinary and talented cricketers wishing to compete with others from their own clubs, leagues and countries of origin.
With most of the matches played at the spacious and scenic Baisley Pond Park in Queens, New York, each match was electrifying, as several of the batsmen put on power-hitting displays while going for the maximums; often into the picnicking throngs of fans in the south western end of the park. A number of nail-biting match finales kept the hundreds of fans engaged and supportive of the participating teams and the tournament sponsors.
Some electrifying batting displays from Pakistan’s Abdullah Syed who went over the top in every match he played. His batting like so many others, was a thing of beauty. The hard-hitting batsman created a significant buzz in the grounds and subsequently in the cricket community. Syed’s performance may have catapulted him to be selected as part of a USA cricket camp organized by the International Cricket Council and ICC Americas, with an opportunity of representing the USA in international competition.
Team Pakistan would eventually emerge winners of the 2016 Rockaway T20 New York Cricket Fiesta and no doubt will be looking to repeat as champions, however, that is left to be seen in the 2.0 version of the tournament. If last year’s player performance is any indication, then cricket fans are in for a super treat this year.
Live commentary will once again be provided by the commentary team of Lenny Achibar, Jamie Paul Lloyd, Carl Bennett, and the irresistible nine-year old broadcasting prodigy Matthew Achibar.
The numbers from last year’s tournament speak for themselves. Eighty-one players participated, scoring almost 9,000 runs collectively, including 184 sixes and 295 fours, with 185 wickets falling. With a little over 500 overs bowled, there were only six maidens, 13 no balls, 274 wides and 118 catches recorded. Of the 81 cricketers who padded up, only 21 of them failed to score on at least one occasion, while 13 scored 50 or more and 36 recorded 25 or more runs per inning. In the bowling department there were three 5-wicket hauls and five 4-wicket hauls. Those numbers indicate the level of the competition in both the batting and bowling areas of the T20 tournament.
Some of the standouts from last year’s tournament were Abdullah Syed (Pakistan), Karen Ganesh (Guyana) Jakir Hussain (Bangladesh) Michael Noble (Guyana), Syed Sibghat Hussain (Bangladesh) and Md Kamruzzaman (Bangladesh). Who will emerge this year and help their team to capture the $7,000 First Prize or $3,000 Second Prize performance awards, is still left to be seen. Last year’s tournament culminated with a lavish banquet and awards presentation at Royal Empress Banquet Hall on Rockaway Boulevard, and hosted by title sponsor Rockaway Group of Companies.
This year’s action gets underway this Saturday, May 20 at Ferry Point Park, Whitestone Bridge, Bronx, NY, where Jamaica will host the New York Select XI at 10:00AM and Pakistan will host Guyana at 2:00pm at the same venue. The tournament will continue on May 27, June 10, July 1, 15, 29, and the tournament will conclude on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at Baisley Pond Park, in Queens, NY, with the semi-final and finals.