Tag Archive | "cricket"

Nations United Through Sport

by Colleen McKown, Indian Beat Reporter —

On the international cricket stage, rivalries between national teams can be intense. The India-Pakistan rivalry is among the greatest in sports. Games between the two teams have incited riots, flag burning and fights in the stands. In the New York-based Commonwealth Cricket League, however, Indians and Pakistanis play side-by-side with handshakes, smiles and only friendly teasing. Tensions are minimal in the league.

The Commonwealth League, the oldest in New York City, has 72 teams. Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Trinidadians, Guyanese, and Sri Lankans, all rivals back home, are often teammates here. They are carrying on a favorite pastime from home.

“We are all like brothers. We treat each other like brothers. We’re good here. No probs, never ever,” said Mohit, a player from Punjab, India as he excitedly cheers his team on at Kissena Park in Flushing. The league will continue playing most Sundays in parks throughout the city as long as weather permits.

Badsha Chowdhury, from Bangladesh, said the sport serves to unite rather than divide.
“The good thing about Commonwealth Cricket League is that when you build a team you really don’t see who’s Pakistani, who’s Indian, we build a team according to the players, so we have a group of guys, 12 guys playing together. So when they come together we don’t care about your race, your religion, nothing. It’s just one team,” Chowdhury said.

Mohit said that cricket is a more lighthearted game here in New York than back home in India.

“Over there we play with more passion, and cricket is like a religion to us. Over here it is okay, it’s like for fun, and we guys are playing but that’s a good thing. Because over there we never get the chance to play with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, this and that,” he said.

Manish Sharma, a Punjabi taxi driver and the captain of the Commonwealth team Elite, said the mix of nationalities helps players with their game.

“When you are playing domestic it’s completely different because you understand their language, you understand many things, what are they talking about, you see what sort of game planning they’re having. Here you may have to figure it out,” he said.

Manish enjoys navigating these challenges. “That makes me feel like I’m playing international or something,” he added.

Mustafa Diwan, the team captain of Commonwealth team Rajput, also enjoys playing with a variety of nationalities and likes how that changes the game.

He said there are, however, some challenges to playing cricket in New York.

In his native India, he said, there are grounds everywhere made specifically for cricket.

“Here, the grounds are not well-maintained,” he said. “We don’t have good facilities.”

Because cricket fields in New York are used for a variety of sports, the grass is not properly cut for cricket, Diwan said.

One of the regular umpires, Christian Singh of Trinidad, said this is because cricket is not a big sport in America.

“Not many Americans play. In baseball fields, they usually cut the grass more often,” he said.

Diwan said that although the Commonwealth Cricket League is open to any nationality, it’s unusual to see anyone who isn’t South Asian or West Indian. One may think that British players would join, given Britain’s historic connection to cricket.

Not the case, said Diwan. “It’s rare to see a player from Europe.”

Even so, the players stressed that anyone is always welcome. This particular Sunday, an English player happened to be on the field.

Daniel Melamud, hoping to get back into a sport from his childhood, recently visited a cricket store and met Mohit. Mohit invited him to come play.

“Today I’m meeting all these guys for the first time, and they’re people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and everyone is incredibly welcoming and friendly. It’s nice to hear different stories and to see everyone’s passion for the game,” he said after running off the field.

Sharma said that while there is goodwill between nationalities, the true rivalry comes out when friends play each other.

“When your friends are playing, you really want to win that game, you know. You eventually try to get them aggravated one way or another, by talking or by doing anything else.”

After the game, Sharma said, teams put any competition aside to enjoy each other’s company.

“But then, it’s always happy ending, we get together, have barbeque, have a couple of drinks, that’s how we finish it up.”

Members of the Commonwealth Cricket League play on Sundays in Kissena Park in Flushing.

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From the West Indies to Queens, Cricket Carries On

by Stephen Jiwanmall, Trinidadian Beat Reporter — 

Ralph Tamesh looked at the sky and shook his head. Rain had squashed his plans for the day – literally. As he surveyed a small cricket field in Queens last month, he knew the game would have to be rescheduled, but he held out hope that the rains would let up. They never did.

Tamesh is the president of the Indo-Caribbean Federation, a New York-based organization that hosts an annual cricket match between teams representing Trinidad and Guyana. The game brings together hundreds of West Indians and cricket fans from all over the city and carries on a love for the sport that goes back nearly 175 years on the shores of the Caribbean.

When slaves from colonial India came to Trinidad in 1838, they brought with them the game of cricket – a British sport that resembles baseball. Since that time, Trinidadians – Trinis, for short – have embraced cricket as an unofficial national sport.

Yesterday, the West Indian men’s cricket team won the World T-20 Championship. For Tamesh, this recent success comes from a natural love for the sport.

“At a very young age, you’ve got a ball and bat in your hands,” he said. “It’s part of the culture. They grew up with it, and they look up to older players. They want to mold themselves into that.”

Ozone Park resident Glen Lorick is the captain of the Trinidad team that plays in the tournament, which is now in its 22nd year. When he was 19, he came to the United States with a desire to play cricket.

In the United States, cricket fades in comparison to baseball in terms of popularity, Lorick said, but in Trinidad, it’s considered their national pastime.

“While growing up, all of us, neighbors, that’s all we do,” he said. “We got a passion and a love for it. That’s our main sport.”

Many Trinis like Lorick who have come to America have carried on that passion for the game, and New York City in particular has transformed into a cricket mecca for this community and for West Indians in general.

Eight cricket leagues spread out across the city, six hardball and two softball, also known among Trinis as “winball.” Lorick said Trinis don’t have a specific league or club, but it isn’t hard to find them.

“Most of us play in different clubs,” said Lorick, who plays for the Staten Island Cricket Club in the Metropolitan League. “Trinidad’s team [for the tournament] would be based on guys playing in about seven or eight clubs in the area. We don’t play for the same club, but we play for the same country together.”

Lorick, along with Tamesh and Guyana’s captain Karan Ganesh, selected their national squads after evaluating players’ statistics and performances in their leagues. Both teams narrowed their rosters to a starting 11 lineup and a few alternates. Tamesh said the quality of players in this tournament has always been top-notch.

“The spectators, the cricket fans in the New York area know this is one of the biggest games of the year, and they look forward to it because of the competitiveness,” he said.

The rivalry between Trinidad and Guyana at the annual tournament has always been feisty, Lorick said. He has been a part of the event since its first game in 1989. During the first few years, fights would break out in the stands between fans of the two countries, he said. He couldn’t put his finger on why fans got hostile, but tension eased as time passed. Lorick said the mood changed once the fans saw that players from both countries respected each other and the game.

“Right now, it’s just bragging rights, and we get along really well,” he said. “When we come to the ground, we have fun with it. It’s just a day of cricket.”

Nevertheless, the tournament has brought out the best in both nations. Guyana has the edge in victories, winning 15 of the 22 yearly matches.

“Everybody looks forward to seeing the game,” Tamesh said. “They’re rooting for their own country. They want to see their country win. The cricket is very competitive, but at the end of the day – the camaraderie between the players and the spectators – they all have a good time.”

The competitiveness of the match has roots in each country’s desire to be a cricket power, especially in the Caribbean. In prominent international tournaments, neither country has its own team. Rather, a team is formed with players from the countries and territories in the region.

“The level of cricket is very high in the Caribbean,” Tamesh said. “The nature of the selection of the West Indies team, you have about seven countries that are vying for a player to get into that team, so they all have to play at their best.”

In New York, cricket is well established within the West Indian communities, but Lorick said that the future of the sport depends on whether or not the new generation picks up the passion from the older one.

“Competitively, cricket is here, but we’re having a problem in New York,” he said. “I’ve been around a long time, and I thought 20 years ago, we’d have introduced cricket into the school system. Fortunately, we did it about five or six years ago.”

The Public Schools Athletic League was created in 2008 with 14 schools in the city. Now, 26 schools form five mini-leagues, compete for an annual championship, and play in the Mayor’s Cup all-star game at the end of the school year.

Though Lorick said he enjoys the rivalry and driven nature of cricket, he emphasized that the sport shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

“In life, when we leave here, we don’t know what tomorrow brings,” he said. “In any sport you’re going to play, please just enjoy it for the game, for the fun of it. Enjoy it like when you were a kid. Just enjoy whatsoever you’re doing today.”

Note: The tournament was played on Saturday, September 15. Guyana won the match in front of nearly 400 spectators at Baisley Pond Park.

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