By Sam Sooppersaud
I have been on the New York area cricket scene since the 60s. To be exact, when I arrived in the USA in July of 1969, I made inquiries as to where cricket was being played. I had heard, while in Guyana and making arrangements to emigrate, that lots of cricket was played in New York. Being a cricketer myself, that was great news to me. At the time I was involved in playing “A” Division cricket, the Davson Competition, for Berbice Police.

So on my arrival in the USA, once I had done the other important tasks that would ensure my livelihood, I started to focus on the cricket scene. Following information obtained, I went to Van Cortland Park in the Bronx one September Sunday. There I met the late Dennis Lowe, the father of Lesly Lowe President of the Commonwealth Cricket League (CCL). Right then and there my involvement in cricket in New York began.

Fitzroy Hayles president of the United States of America Cricket Association.

Fitzroy Hayles president of the United States of America Cricket Association.

There were only a handful of cricket teams playing at the park at that time. Dennis had the dream of forming a formal cricket league. He was in the planning process. Dennis and I struck up a friendship and I visited his home a couple of times. At the time he lived in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan. I worked along with Dennis on the initial planning of the CCL. He was a visionary who foresaw the league growing and providing an opportunity for immigrant cricket players to employ their love of cricket. Dennis’ dreams are alive today. His son has maintained the league and through his hard work there are over 75 cricket teams competing each year in various tournaments put on by the CCL.

Fast forward. Today cricket in New York City is being played at a far higher standard that it was in the 60s and 70s. Yes, more accomplished players have been coming in to the city and raising the quality of the cricket. There are more off the field involvement by people who want to see our cricket continue to grow and get better. People with administrative training and ability are getting involved in running clubs and cricket leagues. Now that the immigrant players are more settled, they are able to support their clubs and leagues financially. Businesses are throwing in their sponsorship of tournaments. Then, there are the fans, the cricket lovers who come out in the hundreds on the summer weekends to cheer for their favorite teams.

Our cricket administrators are “working” the politicians. Through mutual “benefits” several cricket-only fields have been assigned and prepared by the City of New York. We have Seaview in Brooklyn, Baisley Park and Idlewild Park in Queens. and six new cricket fields at Van Cortland Park in the Bronx. Cricket is truly making great strides in the New York Metropolitan area.  Despite what is going on with our national cricket body United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) cricket at the grass-roots level is moving forward,

One of the most important reasons why we have “a higher grade” of cricket is because we have “a higher grade” of umpiring.  With the formation of the United States of America Cricket Umpires Association (USACA), and the very strict training process it adopts, more skilled and knowledgeable umpires are officiating in our cricket games. As cricketers, we know that when we are confident that an umpire “would do the right thing,” we tend to play with more confidence.

Mr. Fitzroy Hayles, the President of the USACUA and his slate of executives are always on the backs of the membership of the organization to “sharpen” their skills and keep abreast of the numerous changes in the game, by attending umpiring courses and seminars. Our umpires are keeping abreast and as a result fans are enjoying an unprecedented higher class of cricket than in the past. Kudos to our umpires.

This coming Sunday, October 18th, Idlewild Cricket Park, in Rosedale, Queens, would be the venue for the annual Umpires’ Game. Of course, the umpires would be donning their flannels and competing against a representative team of the New York Cricket Region. I think, at this time, the secretary of the NYCR Ms. Venelda Wallace, along with some helpers, are in the process of “getting up” the region’s squad.

Who or what is the NY Cricket Region? If I may venture to answer my own query! It is made up of the entire cricket fraternity of the region: cricketers, administrators, fans, sponsors; and of course, the Media, the cricket writers and the commentators who recreate the game for the public.  We may tend to feel that the NYCR is merely the body of officials who administer the region. One cannot overlook this misconception, because at times the executives running organizations act as if “it is their personal baby.” They have the “right” of ownership.  Totally and completely false. The region is, ALL OF US”.

So, who should be on the squad opposing the umpires this weekend? The squad should be comprised of members of each sector of the cricket fraternity: as mentioned in the above paragraph. This game is not “about” winning. Whether the umpires pummel the Region or vice versa. It’s about recognizing the contributions of all the sectors on the fraternity in propelling our summer pastime forward. So I am asking the selectors, who are charged with getting up the Region’s squad to take heed of my comments. Involve those who are involved. This can only persuade them to get more involved.

To the cricket fans. This may be the last opportunity to watch a cricket game in New York City. The temperature is dropping. Soon, we would be putting on winter coats rather than cricket uniforms. The games in the past have always “been fun”. Of course, the Umpires’ squad will be made up of umpires. Come on out, bring the family. Food and drinks will be on the house.

See you at Idlewild Cricket Park, 223rd Street and 147th Avenue, Rosedale, on Sunday.