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Well Done Sew Shivnarain!

By Sam Sooppersaud

August 15th, 2008
On Friday, August 15, 2008, the cricket fraternity in the New York metropolitan area will honor former West Indies Test cricketer Sew Shivnarain, affectionately called Shiv by many of his friends and supporters, with a lavish banquet at the luxurious Chateau Royal, Richmond Hill, Queens, NY. How fitting for a gentleman who has given so much to cricket, both on and off the field, in Guyana and now in the United States of America.

Sew Shivnarain (Photo by Shiek Mohamed)

I have had the good fortune of crossing paths with Shiv, from time to time, for over four decades. From when he was just a kid in Guyana to the present time in New York, where he is deeply involved in developing cricket in the metropolitan area.

Personally, whenever I need to take a Motrin to quell my backache, I would remember Shiv. Whenever I take a Tylenol or Feldene to relieve this pain, I would remember Shiv. Want to know why? Then read on!

I will attempt to give a timeline chronology of my crossing pathways with Shiv. Let's turn the clock back to the mid-sixties - around the years 1964-1965. I cannot recall the exact year. I was playing cricket for Berbice Police in the “A” Division Davson Competition as an opening batsman/wicketkeeper. During that time, I was stationed at Albion Police Station. I had played against Albion Sports Complex many times and therefore was on friendly terms with several of their players: Skipper Misir, Herbert Appado, Rahamat, Kumar Sedarsan, Reds Singh, to name a few, and was always welcomed at their practice sessions.

Almost at every session several young boys would join us. They helped to run down balls, and at the end of the 'big boys' practice session, if light permits, the kids would get to bowl or to bat, depending on what they did best, at the time. I can recall a short, skinny kid who did both - bowl and bat. He bowled slow left-arm and batted right-hand. He did both well. He showed that he had the potential to master both should he continue to practice. He showed a dedication to practice that was rare in young kids his age. Many times some of his friends would leave and go home if their turn at bat or bowling was not forthcoming. But this one kid would remain and continue to chase cricket balls, while waiting his turn to bowl or bat. I must admit that even at that tender age he troubled many of us with his spin bowling. He got tremendous movement and variation with the ball. Yes folks, that lad I am talking about was the young Sew “Shiv” Shivnarain.

I immigrated to the United States in 1989 and lost touch with the cricket scene in Guyana, and particularly in Berbice. However, in 1978, through a friend I learnt that a Sew Shivnarain had been selected to play for the West Indies. I think it was against the visiting Australians. Immediately my mind went back to that kid at Albion who had showed so much promise. On learning that it was indeed him, I felt a sense of great joy. I felt a certain fulfillment, as if I had helped to mold a test player. In fact, a couple of years earlier I had worked with Milton Pydanna on his wicket-keeping skills while he was still a school boy. He later went on to play a few games for the West Indies.

Let us look to 1982. I was the Secretary of the Brooklyn Cricket League. Bhola Ramsundar was on the executive body at that time. Brooklyn Cricket League was noted for playing "hard cricket". One of the teams in the BCL was Vikings Cricket Club captained by Julip Singh and with players like Burlin Saheed Dr. Jagnandan, Solomon, Chik, Royston Arjune, to name a few. It was May and the new cricket season was about to start. As usual the BCL kicked off its season with the President's Game. The previous year's champion playing a team comprising of players selected from the rest of the clubs in the League. Vikings were the champions for the 1981 season.

I was selected for the President's XI. In fact I was appointed captain. Bhola (quite a character at that time) had forewarned that the West Indies Test player Shivnarain will be flying into the country the Friday before the big game, and that he will be playing for Vikings. We were also warned that Shiv would run through our batting lineup. There was great excitement and expectation prior to the game, as we were all anxious to meet and see the newest of the West Indies stars in action.

Came the day of the President's game. I won the toss and decided to take first knock. I opened the batting - the other opener, I think, was Thomo Thomas of Melbourne C.C. Burlin Saheed took the new ball. At the other end the ball was thrown to Shiv. I think Bhola wanted to accomplish his promised deed right away. Shiv was able to get lots of movement. I think he got about three wickets. My last scoring shot was a hook off Burlin which raced to the boundary for four. That took my score to 52 runs. I then retired. (Shiv would be the first to tell you that Sam had a very good hook shot in his playing days). I remember Shiv clapping as I walked off the field. He is that kind of a gentleman and sportsman. As I walked off, the thought came to my mind that I have just scored a half century off a West Indies Test bowler. Yes, this is one of the ways in which my path crossed that of Shiv's - I was the first batsman in the USA to have scored a half-century off his bowling.

At the beginning of this article I mentioned about my backache and having to take Motrin and Tylenol and Feldene. What does this have to do with Shiv! Read on! It was 1984 and Cavaliers Cricket Club and Vikings Cricket Club were playing the Semi-final of the BCL Thirty-overs Knockout Competition. I cannot recall the various details of the game. But I do recall that there was a slight drizzle and the grass was wet. Shiv was batting. Baldat Ramdeen was the bowler. I was fielding at deep backward square leg. Shiv was a master at flicking/hooking the short-pitched ball in this general area. True to plan Shiv skied the ball towards me; in fact it appeared that it was going over my head. However, I leapt and fortunately, or unfortunately, caught the ball. Upon landing, my feet slid forward and I hit the ground on my back. I immediately felt a jolt in my spine. I was out of cricket for the next five years with a back injury. After years of therapy and exercise I was able to go back on the cricket field as a player. I am still playing league cricket, but not without aches in my back and pains all over the rest of my body.

I have watched Shiv played numerous times after this, have seen him captain the USA side and have played several games against him. He has remained, after all these years, a fierce competitor, but always a consummate sportsman and gentleman. My regret is that I would not be there in person to salute such a fine figure in the game, due to a previous commitment I had made. But my thoughts will be there at the Chateau Royale. Of course my endorsement will be on all the accolades that will be heaped upon Shiv, because I know that are all richly deserved.

Shiv you are truly a gentleman, a true sportsman and a model for upcoming and aspiring cricketers to emulate. Congratulations, my friend!

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