By Sam Sooppersaud
All cricketers, present and past, will tell you that once you “got bitten by the cricket bug, the sting remains for life”. In simple, plain parlance, a cricketer, and a fan also, for that matter, experiences a deep “embeddedness” of the game in his soul. This love continues to grow and pervades his mind. Many are quick to tell you that “we don’t leave the game, the game simply leaves us”. Whatever that means!.
In New York City, the NY Masters Cricket League (NYM) accommodates cricket players, age 45 and over. These are the guys who no longer may wish to undergo the rigors of cricket with the younger players in the “regular” league. Or these are the “older” guys who the younger players feel “cannot measure up” to their standard. For whatever reason, the Masters are there for the over 45 guys.
The NY Masters have been around for close to 15 years now. The cricket seems to be getting more exciting years after year. The NYM have been making international tours for the past 10 years. Representative squads have competed in tournaments in Barbados, Jamaica, Carricou, and Trinidad & Tobago, to mention a few tours. Plans are already in progress to make a tour to Trinidad & Tobago next March.
Well, I suppose that cricket bugs bite everywhere in the world. Some blokes in Sydney, Australia have been bitten. These are the guys that comprise of the group that call themselves the “Sydney Cricket Classic”. Of course, this group is based in Sydney, Australia. The Classic comprises of players ranging from ages in the 50’s to the 70’s. They are not folks who have played any “big” cricket in their lives. They are the ones who have played the regular village or district competitions. Some have only been involved in some “friendly cricket”. But they all cherish the love of the game, and do not want to let go. At least as long as they “could move around”. The word “I quit” is not in their vocabulary, at least for now.
Members of the group have participated in the “Over 50 Classic League”. That league consists of 16 teams; players range in age from 50 years to 70 years and a few a bit older. The league is so organized that the teams play 11 games each. There are no shortages of players to fill the rosters of the 16 clubs. Plans are in the works to create an “Over 60 League”, and if successful, an “Over 70 League”.
According to Mr. Douglas Latto, the Chief Organizer for the Sydney Cricket Classic, the group has been together for over 9 years. Asked why he organized the group, he said that “there is more to cricket than just playing the game”. He explained that as you get older it is not only the game that offers the enjoyment. It is the friendship with your buddies that give you the most satisfaction. The cricket binds us together. Then there is the getting together for a drink or a card game. Members and their family go out to lunch or dinner. They even make little trips here and there. The cricket is the glue, the activities and interactions are the means of enjoyment.
For the past eight years the Sydney Cricket Classic have venture to take their fun on the international stage. They have made bi-annual tours to three continents. (So far, according to Douglas). In 2010, The Classic toured the United Kingdom. The squad included many players in the Over 40 age group. In 2012 another tour was made to the UK. This time the party consisted of players in the Over 60 age group. They went to the UK for the third time in 2014, this time taking players in the 50, 60, and 70’s age group. Then off to South Africa for yet another tour in 2016. Doug has told me that the “boys and their wives” had some splendid times on these overseas tours.
The “boys and their wives had such a splendid time on the overseas tours that they decided to make the bi-annual tours an annual one. So, on July 8th of this year, 2017, 15 players from the Sydney Cricket Classic flew out of Australia on a 14 game tour. They headed for Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 11 players brought along their wives for the nearly month long tour. They played 3 games in Vancouver. Doug was quick to state that they lost all three games. He said they were “done in” by opposing players who half their ages. The younger guys were too much for us to handle. But, he said they had a great time.
Their next stop was in Toronto, Canada. There they played 3 games: the first at the Toronto Police Club ground. The second game was played at the beautiful Toronto Cricket Club. (I know this ground; several international games have been played there over the years). The third game in Canada was played against the Mississauga Ramblers. This game they won, to the delight of the group. The next and final stop was in Niagara. They again won.
They were elated to arrive in New York City, on the next leg of their tour. They toured around the city, before they were called back to another game of cricket. They met the Staten Island Cricket Club on July 22nd at Walker Park on Staten Island. According to my source, the Sydney Classic team won that game. They next met the Maddog Cricket Club. Hope they weren’t bitten! Pardon the pun!
On Wednesday, July 26th, the Sydney Classic met the Everest Masters at the Baisley Pond Cricket ground, for a 40 over game. I was present at the game. In fact, I assisted with the scoring and some other “chores”. The game was arranged at a short notice. But, with the help of Zamin Amin, and the backing of Hafeez Ali from the Rockaway Group of Companies, everything went smoothly. Within hours Hafeez was able to secure trophies and medals for the award ceremony. He supplied delicious foods and drinks, catered from his restaurant, Rockaway Roti Shop. He arranged for tents to be set up and chairs to be delivered, at the field. Hafeez is one guy, one business person who “puts his money where his mouth is”.
The game started with The Sydney Classic taking first strike. They scored 175 runs in their 40 overs. The Everest Masters overtook that score with 3 overs to spare. But, everyone had a great time at the game. As mentioned, there was plenty to eat and drink. Not only for the players, but for each and every fan at the park.
A short and informal award ceremony followed the game. Master of Ceremony, Fezo Sheriff along with Everest Masters captain Zamin Amin, thanked the visitors for providing such a “stiff” opposition in the game, although they lost (a few laughs). “Old timer” Trevor Walke presented the winning trophy to Douglas Latto, the group’s leader. Dough quickly blurted out, “hey this belongs to you. You blokes won”. Mr. Walke told the crowd, that the mere fact that the tourists came all the way from Australia and provide the fans with such an exciting game, make them a winner. He then presented Best Bowling and Best Batting Trophies. Douglas in reply extended the thanks on behalf of his group to the Everest Masters for being such gracious hosts.
The next leg of the tour will take them to Philadelphia. They will play their first game against the Merion Cricket Club, followed by another game versus the British Officers Club. At the conclusion of the official cricket tour, the members of the touring party will depart their own way. Some will remain to continue their vacation while others may head on home. But one thing for sure, they will all be taking cherished memories back to Sydney Australia.
Douglas Latto asked me to say a “special thank you” to all those persons and organization that have made the tour of the Sydney Cricket Classic a success. They enjoyed great company, great conversations, delicious foods and drinks. Some networking also was done. During their game in Mississauga he met Mr. Russel Richardson, the Manager of a Bermuda Under-19 squad that was touring Canada. They shared ideas of the creation of a Masters Cricket Program in Bermuda and the possibility of a Bermuda tour to Sydney. Hey, who knows. It is possible!