Kavishwar Bridgepaul will be a force to reckon with, he has already slam a ton in the tournament. (Photo by Shiek Mohamed)

By Sam Sooppersaud
The 2010 PSAL cricket season culminates this coming  Sunday, June 6th, when #7 seed, William Bryant High School meets  powerhouse team Richmond Hill, the #1 seed, for the right to be called the “PSAL Champions, 2010”, each team having won all their playoff games in their respective brackets.

In the First Round of the playoffs Bryant defeated #10 seed, Abraham Lincoln of Brooklyn. Next they won a hard fought and exciting contest against Franklin D. Roosevelt, the # 2 seed.  It was a game that came down to the last ball of the last over. Next, in the semi-finals, Bryant met #14 seed, Franklin K. Lane, who had earlier won their Quarter finals match against # 6 seed, Herbert H. Lehman HS.

Bryant is enjoying and riding a momentum at this time.  They finished the regular season with an 8-4 win-loss record. They had lost their first three games of the season, and from then on never looked back. Since April 30th, this team has an enviable record of 11 wins with only 1 loss, including three wins in the playoffs which qualified them for a spot in the finals. They have scored in excess of 150 runs four times. The batsmen are in top form with the bowlers successfully defending their runs total.

The Richmond Hill team, on the other hand, has figuratively steamrolled over their opponents.  Led by US Under-19 all-rounder and batting sensation, Kaviswar Bridgepaul, they have scored runs in abundance: in excess of 130 runs, five times, and three times they have scored in excess of 150 runs. At the start of the season in April, they won the first seven matches they played. They then lost a game to # 8 seed, Hillcrest. Following a forfeit by Jamaica, R.H. played unbeaten cricket for the next six games, three regular season games and three playoffs games. A  First Round  win against  DeWitt Clinton, a Quarter Final win against their neighboring school, Hillcrest, and a resounding victory over two time PSAL champions, Newcomers Lions, in the Semi Finals..

Newcomers had earlier qualified for the Semis by defeating # 4 seed Aviation High School in a low scoring match, but with a nail-biting finish. Let’s for a few moments take a look at Newcomers who won the inaugural 2008 season followed by another championship the next year. At the start of this season the Newcomers authorities were deluged with questions by various sports media covering Varsity sports:  do you think you can win a third championship?  How do you prepare the boys for a game?  Are these the same group of players as last year? What…how… where….why……. and on and on.  I will now answer a few of these questions. No, we will not win the championship this year.   Only three players from last year’s squad are still on the team. The rest of the players are freshmen and sophomores. Eight of the senior players have graduated and moved on to various colleges. Most of the youngsters had never played any form of organized cricket before, and they had to be molded into a playing unit. It was only due to their hard work and dedication that the team was able to reach this far.  Watching Newcomers play at the start of the season, no one would have given them a chance of winning even a single game, let making it all the way to the semi finals.

Aviation, the # 4 seed was the miracle team of this season. No one player was commanding, yet all the boys combined their collective efforts to play some exciting and winning cricket.  They should have easily won their quarter finals game against the Newcomers boys, but they panicked. With 7 runs needed for victory and with 5 wickets in hand, Aviation squandered this opportunity. They self-destruct.

Back to the finals: this final between Richmond Hill and Bryant will definitely be a “firefight”. Whereas the Richmond Hill boys are noted for their big hitting, the Bryant boys are more content to play normal cricket shots working the ball around, finding the gaps. Yes, they do have a couple of guys who are capable of hitting the ball out of the ground. The win-loss records of both team look like this:  Richmond Hill  14-1, including 3 wins in the playoffs; the # 2 seed.  Bryant 11-4, which included three wins in the playoffs; the # 7 seed.

Now, to the venue, the Gateway Cricket Complex, Erskine Field. It has a well-manicured outfield with lush green grass. It is surrounded by a fence when serves as the boundaries. Rather small for a cricket ground, but may be ideal for high school cricket. From experience, having played on that field numerous times, I would advice both teams to “walk with a bag full of balls”.  A batsman hitting a six over the western side of the ground will invariably send the ball flying into oblivion, the lush green marshland, never to be seen again.  Hitting a six over the southern boundary will be reason enough to introduce a replacement ball. The canal with its thick weeds and shrubbery swallows up cricket balls.

Pedestrians walking around the park are advised to be on the looking for identified flying objects, cricket balls, launched from the center of the field by hard hitting batsmen. Even the vehicles passing along the main road to the northern side of the ground have a high probability of been smacked by a cricket ball. The ground is, as put by numerous bowlers, a batsman’s paradise. Hence, the game will definitely be entertaining. Most spectators go to a cricket game to see the offerings of the bowlers being muscled around the park.

If the previous two championship games are an indication, then this, the third PSAL finals will be a “humdinger”. I predict that cricket fans will be entertained. It will definitely be a high scoring match. Some of the finest young cricketers will be on display. There is so much interest in PSAL cricket that hundreds will turn out to watch the culminating and deciding game of the 2010 season.

It is expected that numerous dignitaries will be on hand to watch the games including some of our local politicians and elected officials. Officials of the United States of America cricket Association (USACA) and the various cricket leagues in the Metropolitan area will definitely be present. Many of the coaches and players from the other participating schools (which did not make it) will certainly be on hand to lend their support to the finalist from their division.

Of course, PSAL Commissioner  Bassett Thompson, Asst. Commissioner Ricky Kissoon, Cricket Administrator Ms. Lorna Austin, and numerous PSAL personnel will be at Gateway, to see “the fruits of their labor” unfold. Several players will be recognized and awards presented to them for outstanding achievements. The highlight will certainly be the presentation of the 2010 PSAL Championship to the winner.

Come out and lend your hands, cheer and encourage our youngsters, the players of tomorrow!

Directions to Gateway: Belt Parkway to Brooklyn. Exit 15 Erskine Street. Make a left at the first light. Drive about a quarter of a mile. The cricket ground is on the left.