Victorious Berbice team. Photos by Shiek Mohamed

2012 Guyana Inter-County Games
| Scorecard: Demerara vs Essequibo
By Sam Sooppersaud
For as long back as I can remember cricket was always a magnet that drew people together, and the glue that kept them in close community and interaction. In the old country (British Guiana/Guyana), people from the various villages in the districts would converge at the cricket ground on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon; depending on which day a cricket game was scheduled. They would bring along their “brown bags” with their edibles, and the bottles or other containers with their “beverages”.

Berbice manager Chubb Bedessee (right) collect cash prize from tournament organizer Telston Johnson.

Once they got to the ground and settled in, the conversation would automatically center on the game being played on that day, with each group of fans supporting its favorite team. Regardless of how in-depth and intense the conversation on cricket got among the “rival” camps, the atmosphere was always one of fun, community and laughter. People would share their food and drinks with each other, whether they knew each other or not.

On Saturday, August 25, 2012, a replica of the “old days” at a cricket ground was evident at the Idlewild Cricket Complex in Rosedale, New York, when the New York version of the traditional Jones Cup or the Guystac Trophy or the Bank/DIH Cup or The Inter-County Games was played before a large crowd of cheering cricket fans, reminiscent of those tournaments played in Guyana.  Although it was a tournament that was Guyanese in tradition with only Guyanese immigrant players in action, there were fans from various islands of the Caribbean enjoying the games.  I personally met fans from Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad. Even a family from Suriname was at Idlewild keenly taking in the day’s activities.

Berbice skipper Karan Ganesh (right) receives the winning trophy from Shamin Ali of Laparkan.

My day started at 9:30 AM when I left my home in Arverne and drove to Beach 9th Street in Far Rockaway to pick up my cricket-playing and cricket-watching buddy Richard Jogie. Ritchie and myself have a long history of association. We began playing cricket together in the 70’s when we formed the Invaders Cricket Club and played in the Brooklyn Cricket League. Through the years we have played together and on different clubs, but we have always maintained a close relationship. Now that our playing days are over we are still avid cricket fans. We communicate with each other often and are almost always seen together at cricket games enjoying the younger stars and reminiscing of our days with the bat and the ball. My wife Sevika had gotten up early in the morning and prepared a picnic basket for us.

When we reached Idlewild Park only a few “choice” parking spots were open. A large contingent of fans was already at the ground and occupied the parking spaces closest to the field. Once we had parked and walked to the field the first thing I noticed was the number of tents and canopies that had been erected. Apart from the larger tents that were set up for the players, numerous smaller ones were set up in different vantage points around the perimeter of the playing area. Under the tents were tables packed with different delectables and coolers of liquid refreshments. It was evident that fans had come out to enjoy a day of picnicking and cricket watching. Just like the old days in British Guiana/Guyana at The Inter-Country Tournaments.

Shiek Mohaemd (right) of www.newyorkcricket presents Demerara skipper Zaheer Saffie with the runners-up cash prize. Photo by John Aaron

A preliminary one-over bowl-off was held to determine which two teams would play the semi-final, and of course in the process determine the team that would be awarded a “bye”. Fans at the ground were “at a loss” as to what was taking place. Many voiced their opinion that “all this” could have been done before “we come to the ground.”  Some fans suggested that they could have flipped a coin, while many others added that Demerara being the present holder of the trophy, they should automatically be in the finals.  All this made for a more intriguing day of cricket.

Finally the “real” business of the day got underway with Demerara, its players sporting a Green and Yellow uniform, taking on Essequibo, its players resplendent in Yellow. Demerara won the coin toss and inserted Essequibo to take the first knock. The crowd by this time had “warmed up” and was shouting encouragement to their favorite teams. For me this was the first Inter-County game I was watching since the 60’s. What emotions were going through my mind! I reflected back to my time at Rose Hall Welfare Center Ground watching Kanhai, and Butcher, and Solomon, and Walcott, and Gibbs, and Miller, and Legall, and so many great Guyanese players of the past.

Jerry Persaud (left) presents the MVP award to Ryan Girdharry.

Essequibo ran into trouble immediately, by the end of the third over they had lost two wickets while scoring only three runs. In the 4th over they lost two more wickets. The score at this point:  4 overs, 9 runs, 4 wickets, and Essequibo under immense pressure. Then, some damage control was affected by Tamesh Balwant and Deonauth Baksh, which contributed 94 runs for the 5th wicket partnership. Once the partnership was broken the innings folded at 128 runs. Baksh had top scored with 72 runs. The score could have been much smaller had Demerara not dropped five possible catches.

Needing 129 runs for victory and an opportunity to meet Berbice in the finals, Demerara’s openers Safraz Ali and Azamudeen Khan set about the task cautiously. They took the singles at every opportunity. Needing approximately 6.5 runs per over for victory, Demerara found themselves batting at 5.1 runs per over by the end of the 9th over. (9 overs, 46 runs, 2 wickets). The score deteriorated to 13 overs, 67 runs, 2 wickets. With their opponents needing 62 runs more for victory, a scoring rate of 9.4 runs per over, Essequibo were in the proverbial driver’s seat. The Essequibo players were very vocal shouting advice to each other, propelled on by the fans, who were screaming encouragement to their favorite teams.

Deonauth Baksh (right) receives the best batsman trophy from Terry Dat.

At the end of the 15th over, Demerara needed 52 runs and with 7 wickets in hand, with a run rate of over 10 runs per over. A seemingly impossible task.  A wide and its 51 runs in 30 balls. With the fall of another wicket Dino Chow-Wee-Nam walked to the wicket. His scoring shots: 6,6,6, off of successive balls he faced. Eleven balls later the game was over. Demerara scoring the winning run in 17.2 overs. Needless to say, the Essequibo players and their supporters were devastated. They had the game in their hands but let it slip away. Demerara earned the right to meet Berbice in the finals.

Scorecard: Demerara vs Berbice
In the finals Berbice, sporting blue uniforms with red trimmings, took the first knock. In the first over paceman Dino Chow-Wee-Nam bowled 6 wides. In fact he was taken off and never “saw” the ball again. In the first 5 overs Berbice were scoring at over 10 runs per over. Demerara was eventually able to restrict their batting and lowered the scoring rate to 7 runs per over by the end of the 9th over. (9 overs, 64 runs, 3 wickets). Then Berbice skipper Karan Ganesh took things into his hands, scoring a quick 33 runs. Ryan Girdharry joined the party and walloped 25 runs in 10 balls. From 12 overs, 89 runs, 4 wickets, Berbice raced to 13 overs, 116 runs, 4 wickets: 26 runs was scored off the 13th over.

Kerk Higgins (right) presents the best bowling award to Andre Kirton.

Berbice was not yet done punishing the Demerara bowlers. With the fall of the fifth wicket the robustly built Kavishwar Bridgepaul walked to the wicket. He joined in the fun of “Demerara bowler bashing,” scoring a quick fire 35 runs off 18 balls. From 130 in 17 overs Berbice ended their innings at 167 runs in their 20 overs of batting. Demerara needing 168 runs for victory, 8.80 runs per over, not impossible but challenging.

Demerara commenced their innings with Safraz Ali and Azamudeen Khan. The first over produced 22 runs courtesy of Ali’s bat. The batsmen were on a mission, and that was to overtake the 167 runs scored by Berbice.  Runs were scored steadily but so too wickets kept fall steadily. In the 10th over Andre Kirton took a liking to the leg spin of former West Indies leggie, Mahendra Nagamootoo. Kirton pulled successive balls from Nagas over the square leg boundary for 6,6,6. The Demerara boys kept slashing away at the Berbice total of 167 runs.

With fifteen overs now bowled, the score was 125 runs for 5 wickets, 43 runs needed in 30 balls. In the context of Twenty/20 Cricket, it was still anybody’s game to win. A 20 run over and “BINGO, you’re on your way. It has happened before in this form of the game. It can certainly be done again. Berbice introduced Kaleem Bux. He grabbed two wickets in successive balls and Demerara had their backs to the wall. Kirton and Skipper Zaheer Saffie who at one stage were well on the way of taking their team to the winner’s circle were now both back in the showers. With the fall of their wickets Demerara’s chance of winning vanished. Berbice walked away with the win and the 2012 Guyana Inter-County Games Championship.

One of the honorees, Milton Pydana collects his plaque from Chubb Bedessee.

At the presentation ceremony after the game with American Cricket Federation’s Steering Committee member John Aaron serving as Master-of-Ceremonies, the following awards were presented:

BEST BATSMAN – Deonauth Baksh (Essequibo) – 72 runs against Demerara.
BEST BOWLER – Andre Kirton (Demerara) – 3 for 18 against Essequibo.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER – Ryan Girdharry (Berbice) 30 runs and 1 for 15.
Cash prizes were also presented.
RUNNERS-UP – Demerara – $2000
CHAMPIONS – Berbice – $3000

The championship trophy, courtesy of Laparkan Shipping, was then handed over to Karan Ganesh, captain of the 2012 champions Berbice County.

Then the Inter-County Committee took time to honor three former Inter-County cricketers for their services to cricket in Guyana and in New York.

From Essequibo, Chandar Persaud, an opening batsman who made his Inter-County debut in 1985.

From Demerara, Winston English, a fast/medium bowler, who in addition to representing his county, went on to play for Guyana for many years.

From Berbice, Milton Pydanna, a wicketkeeper/batsman, who also played for Guyana and went on to play for the West Indies in the One-Day format of the game.

On the whole, the day was for cricket and cricket fans, and was a resounding success. Cricket is alive in New York, and this is because you, the fans, keep it alive!