West Indies Made A Lasting Impression At Floyd Bennett
By Orin Davidson
From the time you hit the tail end of Flatbush Avenue, one could sense the anticipation of a really big event occurring nearby, last weekend.
Although cricket is not well known in New York City, the air was charged with excitement from the looks of the people approaching Floyd Bennett Park to see Brian Lara’s West Indies star players in action for the first time in Brooklyn.
Actually the countdown to the weekend of star power, began several days prior and reached a crescendo when fans rang the Cricket International phones off the hook for information when it finally dawned on them Lara and company were indeed coming to town.
It was probably a blessing in disguise the games did not start until two hours before the original time as many spectators would’ve missed much of the action, because of the initial difficulty locating Floyd Bennett Park from the Belt Parkway and also due to the subconscious impression that cricket games in New York do not start before midday.
Once inside the ground on Saturday it was immediately noticeable the Floyd Bennett club’s portion of the massive park had undergone a pleasing transformation. The huge white tents circling the outfield with matching white chairs which extended throughout its circumference, presented an unique appearance. The outfield which by no means compares to Melbourne, Lords or Calcutta, was 50 percent better than it was three weeks prior.
The presence of media photographers with those massive cameras scurrying around for vantage positions, made everyone associated with the event feel very important. Especially so, because those media people were from the really big newspapers in New York City including The Times, Daily News, Post and Newsday.
The crowd inside were already making lots of noise even before the West Indies players stepped onto the field for the opening ceremony.
It was very noticeable that some officials introduced to the players were unknown to me, although being involved with the games’ promotion from the inception.
As is the case with us West Indians, we always use our contacts to make our presence felt whether we deserve it or not. And this occasion was the biggest of them all.
Such was its magnitude, even the cordless microphone being used at the time could not take the strain, often breaking up its transmission and making the speeches unintelligible to most of the spectators.
Nevertheless that opening ceremony set the stage for making of a stupendous atmosphere.
Never have I seen so many pictures being taken at a cricket game. Thank goodness for technology. Digital cameras and camera phones helped make the occasion even grander for the fans, many of whom let their enthusiasm get the better of them by encroaching on the field to join the official photographers and making the opening ceremony somewhat disorderly.
But it added to the zing nevertheless as was the multitude of spectators that showed up. Apart from the cricket diehards, the casual fans, the relatives and friends of players and the ones who only wanted to be present for the kick of it, there was also a special group of tassa drumming Trinidadians just back from the soccer World Cup in Germany. They took the opportunity to grace the games with their presence en-route back home.
The security presence during the two days also added spice to the happenings.
Always in the forefront, the bodyguards were a revelation for some fans at the opening ceremony, but a hindrance to the photographers born and bred in the West Indies.
Of course those huge hulking figures in black are not associated with the sport in the cricket world, as photographers and writers are accustomed going about their duty seamlessly without interference from bodyguards blocking the view and approaches for interviewing players.
That was the case last weekend, and the men in black were made to feel even more important because of the intense attention the players got.
Lara, Shivnarine Ramnaresh Sarwan Chris Gayle and the others probably never signed as many autographs as they did those two days. As for Sarwan he will always remember the young lady who wanted to bare her entire chest for him to sign.
Those players were never mobbed as much, probably except in Guyana when they show up at the GCC ground.
Such was the attention, Chanderpaul not someone very comfortable with people other than his inner circle, found himself on the run whenever he ventured outside the tented dressing room.
Meeting the players up close and personal impacted more on the spectators than the actual play on the field. Of course Lara, Gayle, Sarwan and Darren Ganga to a lesser extent provided spectacular batting. Not to forget United States’ Rashard Marshall who batted his way into the hearts of the cricket fraternity here with his splendid 56-ball 90.
But the West Indies bowling and fielding at times were pedantic enough not to warrant the fees demanded for the two games.
The United States’ batting did not help the cause which might’ve influenced the West Indies bowlers from pulling out the choke at all times.
But fielding which has become such an integral part of the attraction of limited overs cricket, deserved more than merely going through the motions on West Indies part.
Yet it cannot detract from experience of a lifetime for the great majority of the fans who showed up at Floyd Bennett last Saturday and Sunday.
It was a timely appearance by Lara, one of the greatest ever batsmen to grace a cricket field, and who we may never get to see in action in American again.
That’s why the image of him being spirited away by four beefy bodyguards for his flight to London after his brilliant 70 on Sunday, will remain a lasting memory.
Match statistics courtesy of scorer Charles Baker
New York All-Stars
USA All Stars
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