Kallicharan helps promote cricket in US

The Gazette article.

Maryland, United States - As players from both teams gathered their belongings following the first match of the tournament, the rumblings began.

Whispers turned to excited murmurs as news that the legend had arrived spread throughout the Glassmanor Cricket Field in Oxon Hill.

The field, which used to be a baseball field, is situated behind Glassmanor Elementary School and surrounded by an impressive wall of trees that swallows any balls that are hit out of the park.

Here, players of all ages from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., came to play cricket as part of the inaugural Maryland Cricket Cup, presented by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Department of Parks and Recreation in Prince George's County.

And at this seemingly-random field on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend (Aug. 31), one of the Cup's organizers, Elisha Pulivarti, was arriving from Dulles International Airport after chauffeuring Alvin Kallicharan on the final leg of his journey from his home in London to Oxon Hill.

The excitement (players wanted to shake hands, snap photos and simply marvel at his presence) was as palpable as the unlikelihood of Kallicharan being there in the first place.

And while Kallicharan's name might not be of the household variety in the United States, he's a legend in cricketing circles. The former West Indian batsman played from 1972-81, was named the Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1973 and was part of the 1975 and 1979 West Indies team that won the Cricket World Cup.

Now 64 years old and having just stepped off an international flight, Kallicharan tossed on a bright yellow Damascus jersey — one of the six participating teams and a member of the Washington Metropolitan Cricket Board — and played.

“I'll be playing against you today. It's an honor,” said one of his opponents.

“Don't bowl too quick,” Kallicharan replied with a smile.

All of this was in the effort of promoting one of the world's more popular sports in the United States.

“I want to see the sport grow in the right direction,” Kallicharan said. “The goal is to spread the game here among the local people, the white community, the African community and help them understand what the game is. That's the only way it's going to be successful and take off.”

The Cup is a direct result of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D.) 2011 meeting with Chief Minister of Maharastra Prithviraj Dajisaheb Chaven in Mumbai during which, among many other topics, the two states discussed a proposal for bilateral exchange of the sport of cricket via the WMCB.

“When you look at sports, sports have been an institution for me, an education for me,” Kallicharan said. “And to be here in this part of the world to be able to help promote the sport is special.

“You can see the enthusiasm with which these chaps play cricket and it's great. For us, it's a national sport. That's our passion, that's our love. Cricket first, and then your wife.”

The event lasted three days and Crescent Cricket Club won the tournament with a seven-wicket victory against Washington Cricket Club in Monday's final. Two pick-up teams from Prince George's County (Prince George's XI and Bowie XI) were added to compete against the already-established WMCB clubs, but were eliminated in the preliminary round of the tournament.

Kashif Pervez (Crescent) was named the best batsman of the 13-game tournament while Ankur Saini (Damascus) was named the best bowler and Bally Maharaj (Crescent) took home the Most Valuable Player award.

“Growing up in Pakistan, we played cricket the way people here play basketball or football,” said Farhan Mirza, who played for the Prince George's XI. “I was playing through middle school and after I moved here I started finding out where the local leagues are. I love the game, and you go wherever the game is.”

Currently there are more than 2,000 cricketers in Maryland as local officials and cricket enthusiasts continue their push to educate and inspire Americans to play the sport and open more indoor and outdoor playing facilities and training programs throughout the state.

“The way the world runs, it's easy to get into trouble and sports can play a part in helping prevent that,” Kallicharan said. “I tell kids one thing. When you walk out there to compete, there's no rich or poor and no black or white. It's just me and you.”

First Published On The Gazette.

Wed, 09/11/2013 - 21:04