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Enthusiasm, Energy, Entertainment
High School Cricketers Ready To Go

By John L. Aaron
March 27th, 2008
So, they were not resplendent in their match whites, in fact many did not even wear white. But then who can blame the youngsters for not deviating from the seasonal fashion requirement of not wearing white until the official start of summer, or in this case the cricket season.

The runway was the “cage,” also known as one of the Baisley Pond Parks in Queens, New York. It was a chilly 39 degrees with fashion consciousness dictated by the weather and demanding layers, regardless of colors, but the high school cricketers, part of the New York City’s PSAL pilot cricket program were gung-ho on getting some much needed practice outside the toasty gyms of their schools.

Keeping an eye on the game are (l to r) Donald Douglas, PSAL Exec. Dir., Lorna Austin, Asst. Admin. of the PSAL program, Commissioner Bassett Thompson, USACUA VP Fitzroy Hayles and PSAL's Assistant Cricket Commissioner Ricky Kissoon. (Photos by John Aaron)

The PSAL program conceived almost two years ago, received technical support from Carlyle Miller, then the Regional Representative of the New York Cricket Region to the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA). Miller, himself an immigrant cricketer from Guyana, where he represented that country at the national levels of the sport, is very passionate about the game and is no doubt encouraged by the response to the pilot program in the New York schools system, so far.

The current New York Cricket Region’s administration has pledged its full support behind the program and stands ready to provide whatever technical or other help may be needed to see the 20 overs pilot program off of the ground.

With a start date a few weeks away, the students of Aviation and Prospect high schools, along with their coaches, last Sunday converged on the small urban patch of soil deemed a cricket pitch, and off of Foch Boulevard in Queens, with an energized level of enthusiasm.

Although Aviation High, coached by Wesley Henry looked the better prepared of the two teams, both in uniforms and pre-game drills, in the end it was the diminutive XI coached by Lenston Elliot from Prospect High and mainly via Bangladesh, who emerged winners. It was a closely fought battle that was not decided until the final over was bowled.

The Twenty20 match provided great entertainment for onlookers, several of whom play in the New York leagues, as they admired the prowess of the young cricketers, a few of whom have already played alongside their senior counterparts in the New York area.

On Monday afternoon, it was two of the already top-seeded high school teams; John Adams, coached by Alex Navarrete, and Richmond Hill, coached by Lomarshan Persand, who took to the same field and under the watchful eyes of PSAL Commissioner of cricket Bassett Thompson, once more.

Again, no fashion awards were distributed, except for the two official umpires from the United States of America Cricket Umpires Association (USACUA), who were in their official match whites. The national umpires association is one of the cricket organizations that have been at the forefront of support for the program, which is expected to see its first five matches on April 1, 2008.

Richmond Hill batting first was all out for 78 after 16 overs, in the Twenty20 affair. The top scorer Yashpaul, 8, failed to reach double figures, which would strongly suggest that Mr. Extras was the top scorer. It is still too early and cold, for the bowlers to find their line and length and the fielders to warm up in the almost frigid-like temperatures. John Adams’ Abdul grabbed three wickets.

In reply, John Adams romped home to the victory and an out-pouring of their bench unto the field. John Adams’ Amandeep Singh top scored with a solid 18, as his school reached 79 for the loss of seven wickets in 14 overs. Richmond Hill’s Jason had a bucket of five wickets, in the losing cause.

Cricket Commissioner Thompson was very impressed with the energy brought by the players who are all, if not mostly, the sons of immigrant parents from the Caribbean and South Asia, where cricket is the dominant sport.

Monday’s encounter saw Commissioner Thompson joined by Donald Douglas, PSAL Executive Director and Lorna Austin, Assistant Administrator of the PSAL program, along with the cricket program’s Assistant Commissioner Ricky Kissoon. The Wall Street Journal was also on hand with a reporter and film crew to record the embryonic beginnings of what is expected to become a favored program among high school athletes.

According to Commissioner Thompson, it is hoped that a similar program be launched in the middle-school system. Much of the program’s success will depend upon the City’s Department of Education, general support of the public, commercial enterprises and the technical expertise of the more established cricket organizations in the New York area. It was heartening to note that some of the most qualified umpires of the USACUA have “bought-in” to the program and have been officiating at the practice matches, so far. Among those officiating during the two matches reported here, were umpires Baskh, Patrick and Cricket Hall-of-Fame umpire Reid.

What the PSAL program needs now, more than anything else are cricket grounds for weekend practice matches, and between the competition matches which will be held mainly during the weekday afternoons.

The matting (playing surface) and other equipment at the Baisley Pond Park for the two practice matches were loaned, courtesy of Richmond Hill and East Bank cricket clubs, two members of the Eastern American Cricket Association and part of the New York Cricket Region.

The practice session matches are expected to continue this Sunday, March 30 at the same venue.

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