Navin Stewart bowling
Navin Stewart bowling during a local tournament in New York this year. Photo by Mark Audain

Navin Stewart is a former Trinidad & Tobago national all-rounder who has played for Guyana Amazon Warriors and Barbados Tridents in the Caribbean Premier League, and Middlesex Cricket Club in the New York metropolitan area. He recently represented DC Hawks in the USA Cricket Minor League Cricket (MiLC) exhibition matches. caught up with Navin and posed the following questions to him.

Describe some of your experiences in the recently concluded Minor League Cricket exhibition matches.
Having played in quite a few tournaments in my career worldwide and here in the USA, I was looking forward to the Minor League Cricket experience. It brought a new level of professionalism to cricket in the USA in terms of franchisees. It brought several players from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area who would usually play against each other, under the DC Hawks banner.

What was your most memorable moment during the matches?
My most memorable experience was chasing a mammoth total against a formidable opposition – The Empire State Titans. During the battle, the resounding support and jubilation of my teammates turned into a wild celebration. Our support staff was chanting our team slogan, “Hari bol,” as we got closer to the target, and with every maximum hit. It was a surreal experience for me, honestly.

How was your overall performance in the matches? Would you do anything differently if given a chance to replay any one of the 2020 exhibition matches?
My performance was right up there in terms of stats; with the ball, I took six wickets in the two games we played, 2-18 and 4-41. My highest score was 61, not out from 21 balls with seven huge sixes bringing up 50 in 15 balls chasing 196 for victory. I walked to the crease with my team needing 76 in 42 balls and took us home with 11 balls to spare!

DC Hawks
Navin Stewart (7th from left) with the rest of the DC Hawks team.

How different was the experience playing for a franchise team than your usual club or local team?
There was a nice buzz of expectations from all involved anticipating what the experience would be like, as it was the first of its kind in the USA. It certainly lived up to what we all expected as players.

How did you prepare for the matches during the current COVID-19 pandemic?
As it’s now called, the new normal was something we all had to deal with as players. It wasn’t the easiest thing to adjust to new protocols as we prepared and played previously. Having to mask up, social distance, fist bump as opposed to high-five and so on, was the way forward and was indeed necessary.

What improvements, if any, would you like to see implemented during the upcoming 2021 Minor League Cricket season?
I think the current structure was a success in light of the pandemic. As a team, we fell casualty to Covid-19. A few of our team members tested positive, which curtailed our participation in this year’s event. Thank God each member who fell prey all recovered nicely after going through their 14-day quarantine. After the quarantine, we were allowed to resume participation. However, our team’s management thought it best for all involved to decline, regroup, and look forward to what’s in store for 2021.

Is there any particular area that team owners of Minor League Cricket need to improve that would benefit the league?
Our franchise owner Mr. Rajit Passey is one of the best I’ve been around and involved with since I played cricket in the USA and throughout my career. His leadership style is very relaxed and hands-on, as he still actively plays club cricket. Hence, the passion for the game resonates, and all involved can attest to such. His second in command, Mustapha Shirazi, is head of the support staff as chairman of selectors. He did a fantastic job selecting a very talented bunch of players.

Navin Stewart
Navin Stewart smashed a whirlwind 61 from 21 balls against Empire State Titans and picked up six wickets from two games in Minor League Cricket Exhibition games.

Should more under-21 players be added to the roster of each franchise?
The call for more Under-21 players is being echoed all around the league as the youngsters are developing very fast on various skill-sets. But I think they must be all not rushed into the fold at the same time. It must be a gradual process and on merit because T20 cricket can be a very harsh format. Both on the body and mentally, especially with most playing different age-group levels, the staff must manage the workload responsibly.

What would attract more fans to any matches of the franchise to which you belong?
We have a significant following on the East Coast, especially in the DMV area. It was unfortunate we couldn’t host matches this year. Still, I know our fans are keenly looking forward to being present at the venues as they were locked in to live streaming and online scores of our games. So, I’m not worried about that because we have a good franchise marketing team in place.

What is one positive non-cricket experience you took away from your participation in the exhibition matches?
One positive is, the franchises are built around players from different backgrounds and cultures. The intention to blend and mix all of us was a resounding success, “Hari bol.”