By Sam Sooppersaud
Cricket fans, mark your calendar and reserve this Saturday, August 17 as a “Cricket Day,” when the Indo-Caribbean Federation (ICF) stage its Annual ICF Cup cricket match. However, this year, in its effort to provide fans with the maximum entertainment, President Ralph Tamesh and the ICF have worked assiduously to set up two games. In the 28 previous years that the ICF has sponsored these annual cricket games, only one 35-overs game was played each year, and featured the best cricket players plying their trade in the senior cricket leagues around the New York metropolitan area. However, this coming Saturday’s extravaganza will provide fans with the opportunity to watch two games.
Starting at 10:00 AM, there would be a Masters Game featuring many of the players currently playing cricket in the New York Masters League. Believe me when I tell you, they are very entertaining! I have gone to several of these games, and they do not disappoint the fans. The Masters match-up will feature the Guyana Masters versus a Caribbean Masters Invitational Xl. Then at 2:00 PM the second game will showcase the younger current stars in the New York area leagues. That marquee match-up will see a Guyana XI vs a Caribbean Invitational Xl.
Both games will be played in honor of the memory of the late veteran cricket journalist Shan Razack who passed away earlier this year. Shan was a dynamic writer who, in the days when there was no television in Guyana (British Guiana), he brought the game “live” to his readers with his pen.
At this year’s event, the ICF would also be honoring two former cricketers who have contributed immensely to the sport—Sudesh Dhaniram and Joe Solomon. Dhaniram was born at Port Mourant, Berbice in Guyana and played much of his earlier first-class cricket in Guyana. He is a very hard-hitting right handed batsman and a very useful off-break bowler. Dhani as he is more familiarly known, bowls at close to a medium pace.
I got to know Dhani two and a half decades ago. I was playing a game with my club Invaders, in New Jersey, and the youngster came in to bat. He was lean and walked with a very upright and assertive gait. From the first ball he faced to the last, we suffered under his wide repertoire of shots. During the Invaders inning I was at the wicket and I played a ball to mid-wicket. It was a certain two-run stroke. We completed the first run. However, as we took off for the second run, Dhani charged the ball, scooped it up and flipped it underarm, hitting my wicket with me a foot out of my crease. That was the man, in his younger days, cat-like in the field.
Sudesh Dhaniram represented Guyana and later the United States, however, I was not fortunate to see him in action in the first-class games he played in Guyana, but I saw him in action in numerous games he played in the cricket leagues around New York City. To put it lightly, Dhani was a bowler’s nightmare. In the field, as I have mentioned above, he was cat-like. He was very intense in his plays and took the game very seriously. His most glorious, and I think his favorite shot, was the monstrous hits to backward square-leg. You could not bowl the ball on his pads, because he would dispatch you with disdain.
I have heard “talks” that Dhani was good enough to make the West Indies team as an opening batsman, had J.O.F. Haynes and Richie Richardson not cemented those spots. Even the middle-order was already solid. Most would say that “Dhaniram emerged at the wrong time”.
The second former cricketer to be honored this Saturday, is Guyana and West Indies Test batsman Joe Solomon. Joe is no stranger, at least to the older cricket fans. He represented Guyana (then British Guiana) and the West Indies as a middle-order bat and part time leg-spinner. Joe played for Guyana between 1956 and 1969. I remember listening to radio commentary of the Shell Shield tournament, then referred to as the Caribbean Championship Series in the late 50’s. I was glued to the radio listening to commentary of a match between Jamaica and British Guiana. In that game Rohan Kanhai scored 195, Joe Solomon 154, and Basil Butcher 125. This prompted a calypsonian to write and sing a calypso with the words—“Dem Berbician bad, bad, bad, dey beating the ball as if dey mad, selectors, please tek a note…” At that time the West Indies selectors were drawing up a playing squad for the India tour. I guess that calypso served as a reminder to them, of the exploits of the three British Guiana batsmen.
Joe Solomon was a part of the West Indies squad that toured India in 1958 when he made his Test debut at Kanpur. In that Test he scored a classic 86 runs batting at number seven in the West Indies’ second inning, having posted 45 in the first inning. He made subsequent tours with the West Indies to England in 1963, and again in 1966. He toured Down Under in the 1960-61 West Indies vs Australia series. That is when Joe wrote his name in the cricket annals of all time. This is how it went: In the second inning of the Test match at The Gabba, with Australia needing 285 runs for victory. At that time eight balls constituted an over, and with the scores tied at 284 runs, Lindsay Kline and Ian Meckiff the 10th wicket-pair were batting. Kline played the 7th ball of the over to square-leg and the batsmen set off for the winning run. Joe charged the ball, scooped it up one-handed, and with the same motion and with only one stump visible to him, fired the ball toward the stumps. The ball shattered the stumps with Meckiff inches out of his ground, thus recording the first-ever tied Test match in cricket history! All because of the genius of Joseph Stanislaus Solomon.
Much more would be said of these two former player this Saturday, so fans, come on out and bring the whole family. You would be entertained with a jam-packed half-time show featuring live Karaoke and a dancing sensation. Bring the whole family this Saturday, August 17th to Baisley Pond Park, 150th Street and Baisley Boulevard, Queens, N.Y. and see and greet two genuine cricketers, both of whom have given so much to the sport of cricket, and while there, enjoy some exciting T20 cricket.
For the cricket fans who cannot make it to the ground both games will be broadcasting live on Youtube.