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NYPD Youth Cricket Launched
Twenty20 Tournament Off To Colorful Start

By John L. Aaron

July 30th, 2008
The New York City Police Department launched an impressive opening to its inaugural youth cricket Twenty20 program on Wednesday, July 30 at the Gateway Plaza Cricket Ground, in Brooklyn. Complete with a color guard, a traditional Pakistani drummer, and a soothing rendition of the National Anthem by female P.O. Shields, the NYPD’s Twenty20 Youth Cricket tournament was off to a flying start.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly address the gathering.

With some seven network cameras and countless reporters present, as is always the case when New York City’s top cop makes a public press conference appearance, six Under-19 teams outfitted in some very smart and colorful uniforms braved the bright sun and humidity at the small cricket ground located just off the Belt Parkway in the Borough of Brooklyn. There to launch the NYPD’s latest Community Affairs Department’s initiative, was the Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, a 31-year veteran of the New York City Police department and a very smart top cop who understands the City of New York and its diverse ethnic community.

"Our world has gotten much smaller."
- Ray Kelly, NYC Police Commissioner

Commissioner Kelly, easily one of the most popular Commissioners in the history of the City’s storied police department, stated, “The NYPD has been involved in the more traditional American sports, but earlier this summer launched a very successful NYPD United soccer program and now we are launching a cricket program.” The dapper-dressed Commissioner thanked the Police Foundation for providing the necessary uniforms and equipment for the cricket program, while stating that, “Our world has gotten much smaller and we must embrace the diversity of our communities.”

Organized by the NYPD’s Department of Community Affairs, the tournament attracted over 100 youths aged 14 through 19 at a registration session, a few weeks ago. A majority of the players who signed up for the tournament are from the Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian and Caribbean communities. Commissioner Kelly said that the Muslim community was particularly responsive to the program and expressed his appreciation for their support.

The cricket program is an extension of the Police Department’s New Immigrant Outreach initiative that is geared towards establishing positive ongoing relations with multiple ethnic groups. An NYPD media release attributed the following quote to the Commissioner, “New York today is home field for new immigrant and American-born players alike, many of whom excel at sports that local leagues don’t traditionally offer, with our help, young enthusiasts from Bangladesh to Brooklyn now can expect to play them here.” He added, “The NYPD has long provided programs for youth while promoting positive police-community relations. Our Twenty20 Cricket Cup combines the best of both worlds, so to speak.”

NYPD with a Pakistani drummer. (Photos by Shiek Mohamed)

With all six representative teams in attendance and dressed in their teams’ colors and standing shoulder to shoulder with several NYPD top-brass officials, Commissioner Kelly officiated in the coin toss for the first match which got underway immediately following the Commissioner’s remarks. The two opening teams Punjab and Cosmos took to the field while Commissioner Kelly answered questions posed by the throng of media present. Although the questions centered primarily on issues involving crime, cut backs in the department’s funding, and current safety issues in the city, it was done against a backdrop of NYPD Cricket banners, helping to reinforce the main reason for the Commissioner’s presence at Gateway Cricket Ground.

Following the press conference, I had a chance to sit with the Commissioner for a brief chat on the NYPD’s cricket initiative. I found the former Under Secretary for Enforcement at the U.S. Treasury Department and veteran law enforcement officer, now serving in his second stint as the City’s top cop, as very engaging and genuinely interested in the development of the sport and the NYPD’s role.

Captains of the six teams at the ceremony.

Commissioner Kelly, a Vietnam combat veteran and retired Colonel of the US Marine Corps Reserves, said that the NYPD was committed to expanding the program further into the immigrant communities and opined that it may very well attract American-born youths. As I attempted to explain some of the rudiments of the sport to the Commissioner, he proved to be a student of the game and very quickly grasped some of the nuances of the sport, compared to baseball.

The NYPD’s cricket initiative can have a tremendous impact on the sport in the city, serving as a support system for the traditional cricket avenues available to the youth players. Commissioner Kelly was warm to the idea of support from the established cricketing groups in the city and was surprised to learn that there were more than 400 cricket clubs in the New York City metropolitan area.

I came away from my conversation with Commissioner Kelly, with a greater appreciation for the accomplished public servant, and his vision for integrating the efforts of his Community Affairs Department with New York City’s immigrant population.
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