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Cricket – A Breath Of Fresh Air At PSAL Schools

By Orin Davidson
April 26th, 2008
The sound willow on leather and the sight of scurrying figures in white are unusual occurrences at New York parks this time of the year.

But if you take a walk to the major ones like Van Cortlandt, Marine or Baisley, any weekday you will see and hear exactly those sights and sounds.

It is because organized school cricket has finally hit the Big Apple.

These days the longstanding organizing body of New York school sports - the Public School Athletic League (PSAL), is all about bat, balls, pads, gloves wickets and pitches.

Officials accustomed to pre-occupying themselves with baseball, football, basketball, track and field and tennis activities among others, are now familiarizing themselves with cricket apparel, runs and wickets.

Due to the growing appeal of cricket in mainly Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, the PSAL finally allowed cricket onto its school curriculum.

It has now given scores of boys and some girls too, the opportunity to compete in the sport they love that connects them to their homeland.

“It is like heaven for all of these boys,” said PSAL’s assistant cricket commissioner Ricky Kissoon. “Many of them never played competitive school sports here, because they can’t play baseball, football and basketball, so it is a big breakthrough for them now,” he explained.

And in an unusual twist, at least two schools have been bolstering its line up with girls, making the competition the first co-ed series ever.

Even though cricket is a strange , unfamiliar undertaking for the PSAL, the competition is running as smooth as ever after two weeks.

The key organizers all have background in the sport, like Kissoon – a Guyanese who plays for Cosmos club in the domestic New York leagues and commissioner Bassett Thompson who also played and is from Jamaica.

Also the 24 teams have coaches who are from cricket playing countries.

The schools have all fully supplied their respective teams with gear and help players get to the playing venues, spread around the three boroughs.

And officials including umpires have been easily acquired from the New York umpires association.

Even the United States of America Cricket Association has chipped in by donating matting for the pitches.

But the staging of the inaugural series is far from a cakewalk.

“It is a lot of work to get things in place, for sometimes as much as seven matches a week, Kissoon explained.

The preparation of pitches has been the biggest challenge because the transporting and laying of the matting is not always readily available.

In organized New York cricket, the responsibility of preparing the venue lies with the host team.

In the PSAL school series there, are no host teams and the laying of the matting is not a cut and dried process.

“You have to know to do it properly,” Kissoon explained stating that players are now being trained in the art.

Not surprisingly most of the players in the competition originate from South Asia with Bangladeshis outnumbering those from India and Pakistan.

There is also a sprinkling from the West Indies including Guyanese, Jamaicans and Trinidadians.

So far no established player from the New York Region junior program has had the opportunity to play, but Kissoon said a few of the those in action can match Regional junior levels.

Of the 22 matches completed so far Kissoon said he has seen two good half centuries in the 20 overs a side games.

Twelve teams each comprise the North East and South West divisions and the top four will advance to the playoffs.

By then the success of the first ever PSAL cricket series should have been established enough to make itself a permanent fixture on the school’s calendar, much like baseball, football and basketball.
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