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Idlewild Park Of Rosedale
The Mecca Of Cricket In NYC

By Sam Sooppersaud
Sept. 6th, 2008
When I think of cricket grounds with appeal, the ones that immediately come to mind are Lords in England, The MCG, The Gabba in Australia, Lahore in Pakistan, Kensington Oval in Barbados, and Queens Park Oval in Trinidad. Well my cricket friends, there is a new kid on the block - Idlewild Park of Rosedale, Queens, New York - the Mecca of cricket in the New York metropolitan area. Yes, my friends, Idlewild has become the Lords, Lahore, MCG, and Gabba, all rolled in one.

Being present at Idlewild Park watching a game presents the spectators with so many avenues for enjoyment, cultural and culinary delights, not just the cricket. One has the opportunity to meet old friends and acquaintances and to create new ones. One has the chance to enjoy some dominoes while at the same time watching a cricket match. Hey, one may even enjoy the delight of tasting Dal Heyliger's Bar-B-Que chicken - he is always cooking at his home-made oil drum grill. You don't have to see him to find him; your nose will lead you to him.

The Idlewild Park ground is under the constant care of Queens United Cricket Club. This club came into existence in the late seventies, and most of the founding members are still around to run things: Sergeant Heyliger, who runs a tight ship; Winston Rose who keeps the ground and wicket in tip-top shape, while Sandy and Sherman do their public relations thing. All the other members pitch in wherever needed, and this accounts for the very smooth running and upkeep of the park. Queens United originally played their cricket at Baisley Park at the corner of Rockaway and Baisley Boulevards, next to Baisley pond. They have always competed in the American Cricket League, and they still do to this day.

Some fans enjoying a game.

Telston Johnson send down one at Idlewild Park.

A fan in the grass. (Photos by Sham Ali and Zaheer Saffie)

However, in the early eighties David Dinkins became the Mayor of New York City and he was very receptive to the game of cricket and hence was instrumental in the allocation and development of a cricket ground in Rosedale, Queens. Lying between 147th Avenue and Rockaway Turnpike at the end of 223rd Street, Idlewild Park was once part of a marshy wildlife conservation preserve. Sergeant Heyliger and members of Queens United thought that it was an ideal spot for a cricket ground considering its central location. They brought this idea to the Mayor's Office and presented a plan for its development. After much discussions and fact-finding, work began on the project. Mayor Dinkins designated the project as "a field of dreams." The dream became a reality and Idlewild cricket field was born. Funding was provided mostly by the membership of the club through dues and some fundraising events. ECS a private social group assisted with some financing.

Over the past decade Queens United has graciously, in the name of good sportsmanship, allowed several cricket leagues to use the park for important games. Even the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) has used Idlewild on several occasions. The Eastern American Cricket Association has used it for its Big 4, Semi-finals and Finals. About three years ago a Regional All-star XI played a game there against a visiting MCC club XI from London, England. Idlewild has enjoyed a wide expose through these games. Yes, my friends, this is a cricket ground that has gained the reputation for showcasing the best cricket in the New York metropolitan area.

The field is surrounded by some lush tall trees which provide a welcome shade for the hundreds and sometimes thousands of spectators watching cricket games. There is a mound running on the right side of the field, coming through the gates, there is no shortage of parking. The ground sports two large painted site screens, a feature not seen in nearly all the grounds around. To the north there is a spectator stand which seats over a hundred persons.

Coming to Idlewild Park will provide spectators with numerous opportunities. There is always the chance to meet old friends and acquaintances and even to meet and make new friends. Engaging in various topical discussions on cricket, of course, its history and its past greats, cultural, social, and culinary. Idlewild Park provides an opportunity for improving race relations among various groups which may have previously not entertained each other. Many times you can find persons who have absolutely no idea about the game of cricket getting a lesson from persons in the know. A spirit of community pervades Idlewild.

The last time I was there watching a game I witnessed true camaraderie at work. A Bajan and a Guyanese having a chat over food. The Bajan was talking about his peas and rice, while the Guyanese was talking about his cook-up rice. After a while both agreed that the two dishes are the same only they have different ingredients, but with the staple ingredient being rice. The Trini joined in saying that his pillau is also the same dish. They all shared each other's offerings.

At Idlewild, younger players and spectators have the opportunity to meet with and perhaps chat with cricketing greats of the past. Visitors in the past have included former West Indies players Faoud Bacchus, Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon, Clive Lloyd, and those who are still regular visitors: Sew Shivnarain, Reon King, and Neil McGarrell along with former Guyana national stars Vincent Mayers, Carlyle Miller, Vibert Darjune, Andrew Gonsalves, Kevin Darlington, Sudesh Dhaniram, and many former Guyana Under-19 players. Former Trinidad national players David Mohamed, Denis Rampersad, and Jamaica's Dixeth Palmer still play cricket there, along with some of their Guyanese counterparts.

There are other things that arrest one's interest at Idlewild. A vendor with the latest CD's is always present plying his trade and playing the songs. Spectators can watch the game while listening to the vibrating sounds of their favorite Caribbean beat. You can enjoy a hot game of dominoes while watching cricket, or if you are fortunate enough, you may savor the delectable taste of Dal Heyliger's Bar-B-Q chicken cooked in his own home-made steel drum grill. Your nose will certainly lead you to him.

Then again there is the added incentive of having Guyanese Lenny Achibar and Jamaican Carl Bennett giving you ball-by-ball commentary. I must say that their knowledge of the game, its history and statistics is remarkable. They come to the park adequately prepared and keep the spectators informed at all times. Their tangential comments adds more to the game. For instance on seeing an airplane taking off from the J.F. Kennedy Airport and flying directly over the playing field, Lenny remarked that, “I can see a Boeing 747 just taking off from Kennedy Airport and heading for London, England." They alternate at doing ball-by-ball and color commentary. Another time Lenny remarked that he was looking at the Debo Sankar stand where the East Bank posse is having a great time. It so happens that the East Bank Cricket Club’s wicket-keeper Debo Sankar and his friends usually sits on the mound in the same general area at all of the Idlewild Park matches. So Lenny has dubbed the site - the Debo Sankar Stand. Likewise the Chris Khan stand is the regular stand where Chris and his group of friends sit to enjoy the cricket and chomp on pistachios which Chris supplies.

For the past three years the Ed Ahmad Cup – New York’s premier cricket tournament, has made Idlewild Park its home. Most of its games are played at this venue. The Ed Ahmad Cup tournament has replaced the New York Red Stripe tournament. Competing teams have included Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados, Windward Islands, Leeward Islands, India, and Pakistan, as well as a USA Development Xi and an Under-23 New York XI, from time to time. Players relive the competitive spirit which they learnt in their countries of origin, resulting in a very high standard of first-class cricket at Idlewild Park – New York’s true Mecca of cricket.

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