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Who Is The Mold For Our Cricketers Of Tomorrow?

By Sam Sooppersaud

Sept. 24th, 2008
While you the readers ponder this very crucial question, I will venture to take a crack at answering this important query. The answer, I feel lies in three words…ALL OF US.

Yes, my friends, all of us, collectively, have a stake in nurturing and developing our future cricketers. The public sector, cricket leagues, cricket administrators and officials, sponsors, umpires, spectators, and of course, the cricketers themselves, the young and the not so young. In this article I will endeavor to look into what each can do in order to take our cricket and our cricketing skills to another level.

The Public Sector
The City/State/Federal authorities have issued permits to the various leagues for the exclusive use of certain parks (areas of the parks) for us to stage our cricket games. For instance the Commonwealth Cricket League enjoys nearly one fourth of Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx for cricket. If I am not wrong I think they have ten cricket fields there. In Brooklyn cricket is being played on four fields in Marine Park, and another three at Seaview Avenue (Seaview Park). A new ground in presently being developed adjacent to one of the facilities. At Floyd Bennett Field the Feds have given us permits for the use of three cricket grounds (though one has recently been fenced in and is not available for cricket). All around the City and in Long Island there are numerous cricket grounds. So, I feel the public sector has fulfilled its responsibility to our cricket. The teacher in me would be inclined to give them an "A" minus.

Cricket Leagues/Officials
The various leagues are in a very important position to help in the development of our cricketers. First, they can plan their cricket season in a way that the younger players would have an opportunity to compete. For instance, apart from having the senior competitions, leagues/officials can come up with a competition(s) for the youngsters, e.g. Under-13, Under-15, and so on. Again these teens are, of course, in school and may not be able to afford the cost of playing cricket. The leagues can help in working to get finances through sponsorship from the various concerns that are willing to assist, if only they are contacted. There are great opportunities for raising funds for our cricket if only our elected cricket officials will "go the extra mile".

In selecting representative teams, our officials should be unbiased. They should attempt to select teams based on performances. Many times we find favoritism and nepotism factors in the selection of the XI.

Cricket Administrators
These are the gentlemen - and women - if we, men, are not chauvinistic enough to keep them out, who are not running a league, but rather plan and oversee the various competitions, for example the Ed Ahmad Cricket Cup, the Inter-League tournaments. The officials of the body that runs and select national teams, e.g., the Guyana Cricket, Inc, or the Trinidad, and Jamaica Cricket Committees, etc, whatever name they may chose to adopt. This group would also encompass regional officials of our national body, USACA. Numerous times we have heard stories of a deserving player(s) being left out of a side because he is "not one of the boys", or he does or does not belong to a particular club.

Some of these gentlemen do not even attend games where they can witness first-hand the abilities of various players who may be contending for selection to representative teams. It so happens that more senior officials are using their authority to repress and even suspend subordinates if they do not do the senior official's bidding, regardless of the fact that the subordinate's actions were correct and justified. Prime example was the handling of Coach Fraser's alleged infraction. Guys let’s put cricket first and our self-inflated egos on the back burner.

Umpires
You are the custodians of fair play, as demanded by our cricket laws. You are the ones who set the general tone of the game. Many times there have been complaints that some umpires are ignorant of some basic rules, for example, they would uphold an appeal for L.B.W. regardless of the fact that the ball was pitched outside the line of the leg stump. Or, again, some umpires do not know the appropriate signs to give: for a no ball or wide, etc. One umpire, I am told that if the fielding team insisted in their appeal, he would relent and send the batsman walking. Gentlemen, let us spend some time to equip ourselves with the knowledge of the game, its laws, and rules, so that we can say that at the end of the day, "we called a good game."

I have heard stories also of how umpires may be allowing certain big-name players unrestricted latitude in the cricket field. They are reluctant to give these players out; umpires sometimes play favoritism, shaping their decisions in favor of the team of their choice. I can't say, for sure, that I have ever witnessed these things happening, but people have told me of such things occurring in local cricket matches. Guess you can't stop the people from talking, the same way you can't stop the river from flowing. But if there is any truth in these allegations, remedial action is needed, urgently.

Spectators
The large number of spectators turning out to watch cricket matches is unprecedented. More and more people, in the hundreds and on occasion, in the thousands are coming to the various cricket fields to root for and support their team, or even just to watch an exciting cricket match. As a former cricketer myself, I can vouch for the fact that the adrenalin flows more freely when a large crowd is present watching the game. We, the spectators can bring out the best in a player or can cause him 'to hang his head".

I know that we tend to enjoy a game more if we are rooting for a particular side. We tend to applaud every good play that a player from our side makes. We stand and shout "excellent catch", or "good ball", or 'what a stroke!" We are ever-ready to give a million reasons why our team will win. We even try to belittle the players from the opposing side, knowing for sure that some of those players are endowed with excellent cricketing skills. These are the types of attitudes that will discourage a young and upcoming cricketer.

In talking to spectators, addressing the above attitudes, the consensus I have gotten from conversations is that the game of cricket is a gentleman's game and as such people watching the game should act as such. There should not be any berating of players, whether they are from your chosen team or from the opposition. A spectator should be a cricket connoisseur, be able to spot the great plays and applaud them regardless of whose players made the plays. A younger player making a good play feels so much more confident and encouraged when he realizes that spectators for the other team have appreciated his play.

Last Sunday I was at a game where two teams were competing in a Round-robin Twenty/20 game. The game was very tight with either side having a chance to win. The batting side was chasing a modest total. With two overs to go and still needing fifteen runs, the batsman hit the ball to mid-wicket. The fieldsman made a valiant effort to catch the ball but was unable to hold on to it. Immediately coming from the sideline was the shout, "You damn jackass.” Those words were shouted by a gentleman who had sons fielding at the time. Immediately one of his sons chastised him for calling the "big man" a jackass. Of course the fieldsman did not take this comment lightly. This is the type of thing that deters a cricketer.

Sponsors

There has not been a shortage of sponsors for our cricket for the last few years. More and more businesses, concerns, and private individuals are coming forward and "putting their money where their mouths are". Mortgage companies, Real Estate brokers, builders, doctors, lawyers, are all spending their hard earned cash in the interest of developing and furthering our cricketing capabilities. The Ed Ahmad Cricket Cup - a Twenty/20 slugfest contest is a prime example of the sponsorship to our cricket.

Last Saturday, September 20, the Indo Caribbean Federation staged the 19th such contest between Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago. Sponsorship for that game was not lacking. Hundreds of spectators turned out to watch the game and they enjoyed themselves immensely. The grade for sponsorship there was definitely an "A".

Cricketers
Let me address the younger cricketers first You are the building blocks upon which the future of our cricket lies. A question was once asked; how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Among the many answers were by train, by bus by car. But the real answer to the question was, by practice, practice, and more practice. So you youngsters if you are to improve your skills, then follow the answer above. In order to be a more rounded cricketer it is not sufficient that you are able to bat or bowl well only. There are other rudiments of the game that must be mastered, discipline is foremost. One must be able to control oneself, to let his body do what the mind wants it to do. Many times a cricketer allows his emotions to get the best of him, and he loses his purpose for being there in the first place. One has to be focused. One has to learn the intricacies of the game. Talk to, and listen to the older guys. Learn about different techniques and strategies, but always use what you are comfortable doing. Always play within yourself; because you know your ability more that anyone else.

That's the cricketing part of your development. There are other things that must be done if we are to have a cricket game. There is preparation. Formation and running of the team. Attending meetings of your club and league, if so affiliated. Know what is going on with the competition. Study the competition. On match day be early to assist in preparing the wicket. You will have helped to ease the burden of the few who are always early to make this preparation. By doing so you would have gotten first-hand knowledge of the wicket condition and may get an idea how it is likely to play. In coming early you will have an opportunity to talk with the older members of the team and thereby get priceless knowledge. Keep on at what you do. Success comes to those who work hard.

Now, for you the older members of the club (team). Be a shining light to your younger counterparts. Be ready to dissipate information to them. Guide them, correct them. Insist that they do things the right way. If they mess up, do not chastise them negatively, but cajole and comfort them. Words such as, “Don’t worry about that missed catch, you'll get the next one." Always be encouraging.

Show by example of your play and attitude that you are worthy to be emulated by the youngsters. You are playing cricket, longer that the youngsters, and therefore it is imperative that you show that gentlemanliness in your game. Do not get carried away by things you perceive as being negative. For example your side is losing wickets quickly, so you begin to mope about it. Be positive in your outlook, Youngsters are very impressionable. If a bad decision goes against you, do not be perturbed, get on with the game, it is all in a game of cricket.

Never, and I repeat never resort to "giving it to the umpire' for a missed call that went against you. Accept the decision gracefully and try again. There is nothing more disturbing to a youngster than to see his idol on his team berating an umpire. He is told how to behave in a game only to see the very person who is giving him advice resorting to unsportsmanlike conduct. This happens, my friends, and many of my readers have talked about witnessing this type of behavior.

Talking about older players not living up to their expectation. I was able to experience this personally. I was at a game last weekend. Playing in the match was a cricketer who is endowed with ability. He is, without doubt, one of the most attractive batsmen in the entire New York metropolitan area. Spectators are awed at his batting prowess. He could have easily made the West Indies team but for the presence of others there before him.

He happens to be a very effective bowler with his quick off-breaks/off-cutters. This gentleman was bowling at a left-handed batsman. His off-break was pitched outside of the line of the wicket. In other words on the leg side of the left-handed batsman. The batsman played back. The ball cut in sharply and struck the batsman's back leg. There went up the appeal which was disallowed by the umpire. In a tirade the bowler, this superstar, turned to the umpire and addressed him. Using choice vulgarity, he let the umpire know what he thought of the decision. Eventually the umpire cautioned him and informed his captain. You could see the look of disbelief on the faces on some of the youngsters on the team. They couldn't believe that someone, whom they look up to, did exactly what they were told they should never do. This is not the way we the older guys want to impart knowledge and experience to the youngsters. We have a grave responsibility in our hands. Let us us execute it in such a way that upcoming cricketers who are counting on us, will reap the many benefits.

In summarizing this article, I would like to say that I have endeavored to bring to you, the readers, the concerns of many cricket fans that I have discussed various matters with. My intention here is not to indict anyone, but rather to bring to the forefront matters that need to be looked at in a microscopic manner. If there are any questions to the veracity of what I have written, then I will gladly avail myself to positive scrutiny.

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