By Sam Sooppersaud
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Cougars became the 2011 PSAL Cricket Champions when they edged out Long Island City High School in an exciting Final at the Baisley Park Cricket Field in Queens, New York.

It was a nail-biting finish as the game was tied, with a Super Over required to decide the eventful winners. The spectators were treated to an IPL-like Twenty/20 game in which fortunes pendulum from one team to the next and back to the first.

It was marvelous cricketing weather. The skies were clear with not even a hint of any dark clouds. The sun was shining down on the very lush green grass carpeted cricket field. A slight, but invigorating breeze was blowing across the venue. The branches of the surrounding trees were swaying with each wisp of the winds.

As early as one hour prior to the 2:00 P.M scheduled start of the game a significant number of spectators -cricket fans- were setting up their chairs under the trees which provided a respite from the blazing sun.

The wicket was already prepared and the two umpires were busy verifying that all was done according to
acceptable (ICC) specifications. A number of players were doing their pre-game routines: stretching, catching, throwing, light jogging. A few were just stretching out on the grassy surface relaxing and conserving their energy for the actual contest.

Several avid joggers were doing their workouts on the track surrounding the cricket field. A few even stopped to engage the players or fans in conversation, eliciting information on the upcoming contest (game).  On the whole an air of expectancy hung over Baisley Cricket Field on this Saturday, June 18, 2011, the arena for the Fourth Edition of the PSAL Varsity Cricket Championship, the two finalists being FDR and LIC High Schools.

2011 PSAL Cricket champs FDR High School. Photo by John Aaron

This game was billed as a contest between Goliath (FDR) with their cricket skills and might and David (LIC) which had to offer just their wit and determination. FDR boasted numerous experienced players as opposed to their counterparts who included no one of any significant cricketing ability.

LIC won the toss and gave the first knock to FDR. They started off their innings cautiously averaging a little over five (5) runs per over for the first six (6) overs. FDR suffered their first setback with the score on 23 runs, when the prolific batsman, the usually high scoring Mohaiminul Islam was caught off the bowling of Muntasir Rana for 6. By the tenth over LIC had seized the upper hand, having sent back three (3) FDR’s star batsmen back to the showers and with only 49 runs on the scoreboard. Their opener Zahib Tariq was very watchful trying to rebuild the innings. He eventually went on to top score with 39 runs before he was caught, the eight wicket to fall. I think the defining moment of the game was when Zahib was dropped at cover point when he was on 15 runs. He went on to score an additional 24 runs which eventually took FDR to their score of 100 runs in their twenty (20) overs of batting.

Apart from two catches floored earlier in the FDR innings, the LIC ground fielding and catching were superb. Boundaries were hard to come by and FDR had to settle for rotating the strike. In all LIC used seven (7) bowlers who were successful in restricting the FDR to a seemingly attainable total. The only other FDR batsman to reach double figures was Mohib Tariq (10). Bowling for LIC: Tufayel Ahmed 1-0-9-0, Muntasir Rana 4-0-18-3, Sajib Salam 4–0-18-1, Mohamed Islam 4-1-14-1, Attaur Khan 3-0-25-1, Davinder Singh 4-0-16-3.

Making an appearance at the game were Ruben Wills, New York City Councilman for District 28, and Vivian Cook, Assembly Woman for the 32nd Assembly District and the Chair of the Democratic County Committee. In between innings Councilman Wills addressed the crowd and recognized two of PSAL’s staff who was instrumental in putting PSAL cricket on the map. Cricket Commissioner Bassett Thompson and Cricket Coordinator Lorna Austin. He presented the two with a Proclamation recognizing them for their hard work and dedication in getting cricket in the high schools, the only high school cricket program in the country.

There were several coaches from other high schools that had taken part in the 2011 cricket season but had not made it to the finale. I took the opportunity to ask them one question: Is the score of 100 runs enough?

David Burke, the coach of Sheepshead Bay H.S. “FDR is a wonderful team; they can defend 100 runs if they field tight”.

Lall Saitram, the coach of Abraham Lincoln said, “I think 100 runs is enough. FDR have four good spinners and the wicket does take spin. I know that for a fact as my school played on the wicket a week ago”.

Nigel Thompson, the coach of Lehman had this to say, “I don’t feel 100 is enough, 25 runs more would have made a game”.

One very proud fan at the game was Tariq Hussein, the father of three stars from FDR, Jazeb Tariq, Zahib Tariq, and Mohib Tariq. I asked him the same question and his answer was “FDR score enough runs to win the game?” Looking a bit worried he offered, “I feel they should have scored about 20 runs more. It is a tough position for both teams, But, FDR bowls and fields well and they should be able to defend 100 runs.”

Following a plan to settle in and rotate the strike, LIC went out to bat. In the first five (5) overs FDR floored three (3) catches. However, the medium pace of Jazeb Tariq and Abrar Zafar bogged down the LIC batsmen while off spinner Mohaiminul Islam continued to send one batsman after another to the showers. He took the first four (4) wickets that fell. At the end of the tenth (10) over LIC had scored only 37 runs while loosing 4 wickets. The pendulum had swung towards FDR. They seemed to have breathed in new life as there were chattering of encouragement from teammates.

If LIC were to recover they would have to do it ASAP, as at the end of the 14th over they still needed 43 runs for victory with three tail end batsmen to come. Some damage control was done by the ninth wicket pair of Wasif Khan (16) and Tufayel Ahmed (8). LIC needed 25 runs in 24 balls. FDR claimed a ninth wicket. One wicket for victory, while LIC needed 12 runs in 12 balls. With the start of the 19th over LIC needed 8 runs if they were to take home the trophy. Two dot balls. A wide followed by a double. Yet another double, 3 runs in 2 balls. The batsmen scampered through for a bye while the wicketkeeper fumbled the ball. 2 runs needed from the last ball for a LIC victory, a single, score tied. FDR 100, LIC 100.

In the Super Over LIC could manage only 4 runs. FDR overcame this on the second delivery with a maximum to wide extra cover. The FDR players and supporters ran onto the playing field in jubilation. Their school had rescued victory from the jaws of defeat.

Following the game a presentation ceremony was held where outstanding performances for the season were recognized with an award. Among those were the following:
Centurion Club:
Mohamed Hussein (Lehman), Fahad Riaz (Abe Lincoln), Jazeb Tariq, (FDR) Abrar Zafar (FDR)

Most Runs
Abrar Zafar (FDR) 380 runs

Most Wickets
Muntasir Rana (LIC) 26 wickets

A. Rashad (B’klyn In’l) and Amit Seenarine (John Adams)

5 Wicket Haul
S. Ganiadoo (Aviation), A. Rashad (B’klyn Int’l), B. Mutlani (Richmond Hill) and M. Rana (LIC)

Awards for the Finals
Best Bowler: Mohaiminul Islam (FDR) 4 for 26
Best Batsman: Zahib Tariq (FDR) 39 runs
M.V.P: Zahib Tariq (FDR) 39 runs & 2 for 29

Coach Fisher of FDR had this to say about his team’s championship season, “Right now I’m all emotional. We’ve worked hard for four years and this is the end of all the hard work. My boys worked hard for this”.